Olympic hopefuls fence in Memphis for junior championship

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Nearly 2,000 athletes descended on Memphis to compete for a chance at being a national champion.

The Junior Olympic National Fencing Championships are being held February 16-19 at Cook Convention Center.

Katlyn Dillard, 16, never imagined she'd become a fencer. But two years ago, her dreams changed. While watching the Summer Olympic Games in Rio, she saw fencing for the first time. She was hooked.

"This is really interesting, and I wanted to learn about it. So I thought what better than to learn about it than to do it," Dillard said.

Dillard practices 3-5 days a week. She's one of about 2,000 fencers from across the country who are competing in Memphis in the Junior Olympic Fencing Championships.

Robert Paraino is Caitlin's coach. He's fenced for 20 years. He said the most important thing to being a good fencer is footwork.

"The ability to move forward and backward. you have to have good core balance," Paraino said.

He also said that the skills you learn from fencing stay with you long after you hang up your blade.

"Always being able to solve problem in fencing, as it relates to everyday life, you need to be able to look at a particular situation and come up with a solution for that," Paraino said.

Dillard hopes to do well enough during the national championships in Memphis to qualify for the world championships. Then, in a few years, she hopes to be competing in the Olympics!

If you want to watch Dillard or any of the other fencers compete, admission is free to the Junior Olympic Fencing Championships at Cook Convention Center.

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