By Wil Crews
Sisters Lina (11) and Zena (10) Park are making a name for themselves in the world of competitive fencing.
The two aspiring athletes each finished in first place of their respective age groups at the most recent Southeast Regional in Birmingham. The Southeast Region is composed of competitive teams in Alabama, West Virginia, North Carolina, Delaware, South Carolina, Maryland, Georgia, Virginia, D.C., Mississippi, Florida and Tennessee.
“Yeah, [winning together] was really cool,” Lina said. “Usually when she wins, I think I need to win too.”
Lina and Zena train at Auburn Fencing Club, located in historic downtown Opelika at 229 S. Eighth Street. Owner and Executive Director of Auburn Fencing Club, Rylan Delap, has seen the sisters develop into the successful athletes by training them over the course of the last few years. According to Delap, from the first day the Parks walked into his club, the sisters have shown the dedication it takes to succeed.
“They have been fencing now for three years under myself and coach Tatiana (Delap’s wife),” he said. “They are very focused. When they came in the door, day one, their parents were already telling me ‘we have very focused children, we would like them to try fencing.’ And that is very true about them, not all kids who come through the door are focused.”
For their efforts in this most recent season, Zena has earned the No. 1 rank in the y10 division of the southeast region, and Lina has earned the No. 3 ranking in her division, y12.
“They started competitively competing two years ago and they have both been very successful the whole way through,” Delap said. “But, this last season they are both performing very well for their age groups.”
Both Lina and Zena were quick to thank their coaches when assessing their individual success.
“Coach Rylan always encourages us,” Lina said. “Coach Tatiana is a little strict to us, but it’s because she wants us to get better and sometimes we joke around too much. But they are both really helpful.”
Although they support each other in every endeavor, Lina and Zena emphasized that they like to compete between themselves.
“Yeah, we compete a lot,” Lina said. “Since [Zena] is left handed and I’m right handed and we are sisters. I started I think half a year or a year earlier but she can still catch up so I try to beat her.”
Describing their passion for what is general considered a niche sport, Lina said she loves fencing because “it’s like a video game,” and Zena added that, “fencing can help you with other things too, like technique, speed and control, and [it] can help you with other sports, too.”
Outside of fencing, Lina and Zena enjoy other sports, running around the neighborhood, dancing, singing and playing the video game Super Smash Bros.
As two of the most successful athletes Auburn Fencing Club has had since it opened its doors four year ago, Delap hopes Lina and Zena’s success — along with other benefits the sport provides — will encourage others in Lee County gain more interest in fencing.
“Fencing is one of the safest sports,” he said. “We have the least number of injuries of all sports despite the fact that we are essentially stabbing each other. It’s very, very safe. Also, a high percentage of our kids get scholarships and go to very competitive universities. In fact, we beat out all almost all the sports in terms of percentage of graduating athletes to get scholarships. It’s a really exciting sport. The kids who have committed in this area are successful. So, I think we have the opportunity available now, and most people don’t know about the sport, so come out and try it.”
Auburn Fencing Club offers programs for beginner, intermediate and competitive youth fencers, along with offerings for adult and couples fencing. To learn more about the opportunities present at Auburn Fencing Club, visit: https://www.auburnfencing.com/.