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September 1997

Daily Practice Leads to 2d Straight Fencing Title for Sixth Grader

photo A sixth grader living in the city of Otsu, Shiga Prefecture, won the national boys' fencing championship for the second year running in July. It was the first time in the history of the event that a defending champion repeated his feat.

Yuki Ota overwhelmed his opponent by a score of 10-3 in the finals to win the national title. Last year, he coasted to a 10-1 triumph to capture his first national crown.

Fencing was first brought to Japan by a French gymnastics teacher in 1874. National championships were established soon afterward, but they were suspended during World War II.

The fencing population in Japan started growing after the war, and today there are about 20,000 fencers, including around 200 young athletes attending elementary and middle school.

photo Yuki says he took up fencing after he learned about the sport in a movie three years ago. When he began he vowed to practice every day, being inspired by an old saying, "Continuance begets proficiency."

Yuki has kept his word. So far he's practiced for 1,200 straight days without a single day off. He practiced even when he had a fever or injured his hand. When he was on a class trip, he woke up at 4 o'clock in the morning to practice while his classmates were still sleeping. Even when he was on a skiing trip, he brought his fencing equipment with him so he could practice.

He regularly attends a fencing club in Kyoto for practice. On weekends, his opponents are often high school students. Yuki, who'll enter middle school next year, says he now hopes to compete in an international tournament. He also has dreams of one day participating in the Olympic Games.

Photos: (Top) Young Yuki goes against a high-schooler in practice; (above) showing off his championship trophy. (Asahi Shogakusei Shimbun)