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US Fencing National Championships Friday, April 25, 2008

Weston "Seth" Kelsey (left) of Brush Prairie, Wash., parries Eric Hansen's attack Apr. 25 in the men's individual epee championship at the Oregon Convention Center in Portland. Kelsey won 15-7 to capture his third individual title.

Fencing is one of those sports where everybody knows what it is, but no one knows anyone who does it. Portland, though, is a bit of a hotbed for American fencing. Portland-area fencers include Mariel Zagunis, the first American to win gold in 100 years at the 2004 Olympics
(women's individual saber), Cody Mattern and Seth Kelsey, both of whom also competed in Athens, and others.

[left] You can almost see Kelsey's face in this one. [right] Kelsey goofs around with the trophy at the awards presentation.

I'd never seen fencing live before, let alone tried to shoot it. In addition to the typical challenges of dim, flickering fluorescent light and horribly cluttered backgrounds, I struggled with the unfamiliar sport where hardly anything happens for a while and then a flurry of activity happens so quickly you can't even see it. Add to that athletes that (for obvious reasons) wear a mask that almost completely obscures their face and were surprisingly nonchalant after winning a national championship, and you have a real challenge.

The youth division championships are also being held at the convention center. Mason Speta of Chicago (shown here, at right, in the semifinal round) beat Mandeep Bhinder in the Y12 girls epee championship.

The championships continue at the convention center through Monday.