- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 16, 2002

En garde there's a warning you don't hear very often. But yesterday was an exception, as a variety of sporting events, including fencing, were held around the region during the first Washington D.C. 2012 Youth Sports day.
It was a day designed to promote Olympic and Paralympic sports throughout the region and was full of free clinics that taught fencing, badminton, gymnastics and team handball at well-known venues, including the D.C. Convention Center, FedEx Field, Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore and George Mason University in Fairfax.
The idea was that in case Washington is chosen as the site of the 2012 Olympics, it might be wise to show youngsters the kinds of sports they would see.
"I really like fencing," said Alexis Rivera, 13, who donned a white fencing jacket while holding her mesh mask at the D.C. Convention Center in Northwest. She had just listened to a talk given by Virginia Academy of Fencing instructor Stuart Sacks about the history of fencing both theatrical and sport before trying the gentleman's sport.
Alexis, who attends Deal Junior High School in Northwest, said she collects swords and wants to learn skillful swordplay. Her interest in fencing was piqued when she read Alexandre Dumas' "The Three Musketeers" a long book, she said, but one well worth reading.
During the afternoon clinic on the first floor of the Convention Center, Mr. Sacks showed a group of 30 how to advance and retreat, how to block and defend. And the sounds of swords resonated throughout the spacious room: clink, clink, clink.
That's music to the ears of Dan Knise, president and chief executive of Washington D.C. 2012, the Northwest-based organization that sponsored Youth Sports Day and is working to bring the 2012 Olympics to the District.
The event attracted roughly 1,200 participants, ages 6 to 14. The youth played baseball and basketball but also tried their hands at such lesser-known sports as team handball all the rage in Europe but virtually unknown in the United States.
It was an effort to raise awareness about the importance of physical activity for youth.
"We wanted to give the kids a chance to try other sports like fencing and badminton in the hopes that they might take an interest in them," Mr. Knise said.
Washington D.C. 2012 has spent four years trying to bring the Olympics to the nation's capital. Five months remain before the U.S. Olympic Committee selects the U.S. site, he said. The District is competing with New York, Houston and San Francisco. If the District is chosen, it will compete with Paris, Toronto, Moscow and a German city yet to be named to become the games' venue.
Mr. Knise delighted in the laughter of children trying out new sports activities with Olympic coaches and enthusiastic players. On his way to Hallway B on the second floor of the Convention Center, he explained the concept of team handball:
"It's soccer indoors, played with your hands. It's fast-paced and very popular in Denmark, Norway and Sweden. Here in the U.S. it's a lesser known sport. The ball is the size of a cantaloupe," he said smiling.
Meanwhile, children in bright yellow T-shirts emblazoned with the organization's logo threw balls and ran up and down the floors inside the second-floor room. They also learned the rules of team handball from 1996 Olympian Derek Brown, 32, who has been playing since 1993.
The Fort Washington resident who graduated from Gonzaga College High School in the District and LaSalle University in Philadelphia said he saw the world playing the game.
"It's a simple game," he said. "You score by throwing the ball in the goal. In soccer, they kick it," Mr. Brown said.
He said it's difficult to introduce a sport that no one has seen or is familiar with. He hopes to interest children of all ages in the sport. He succeeded with Kia Sanders, a 14-year-old who recently finished Hine Junior High School on Capitol Hill.
Kia was one of several teen-agers who played team handball with Mr. Brown yesterday. She had her reservations at first, she said.
"This is fun. At first I thought it was going to be boring. It's kind of a combination of basketball and soccer," she said.


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