World-class fencers trained in Lawrence for this weekend's world cup in Kansas City, Mo.
A least one Lawrence household won't be wired to a TV set this weekend for Kansas University's marches in the NCAA men's and women's basketball tournaments.
Bob and Judy Turner will turn their attention toward Kansas City, Mo., to watch their temporary houseguests take on the world in the USA Saber World Cup.
The three-day event at Bartle Hall Conference Center is the last qualifying round for fencers preparing for saber competition at the Summer Olympics in Atlanta.
"I know nothing about fencing," admitted Judy Turner, whose home on Boulder Court accommodated two coaches from the Polish national team. "We'll maybe learn a little bit and certainly cheer for the Polish team."
She said the two coaches were extremely polite during their nine-day stay in town, before their seven-member team left Lawrence on Thursday for a Kansas City hotel to prepare for today's opening rounds. The Romanian national team's seven members also stayed with host families in Lawrence.
Judy Turner didn't exactly get a chance to glean fencing tips from her houseguests. The two coaches spent much of their free time sitting on the Turners' back porch or watching basketball.
"They're very busy. We didn't have much opportunity to socialize," Judy Turner said. "But they've obviously traveled a lot and they know how to be good guests."
The world cup will attract teams from 20 countries, said Elise Clement, co-manager of the Lawrence Fencing Club. Club members arranged host families for both the Polish and Romanian teams.
The Lawrence club itself accommodates about two dozen youths, plus a handful of adults who view fencing as recreation. They all spend time lunging, advancing and retreating in a second-floor studio at 619 E. Eighth.
The home visits from international competitors provided an invaluable boost for local enthusiasts, said Clement, who serves on the cup's organizing committee with her husband, Pierre.
"We had these world-class fencers come to train with our teams ahead of time," she said. "We had experience competing with the best in the world."
Fencing is among the world's oldest sports, she said, and is one of only four events included in each Olympiad during the modern era, which began in 1896.
And while Clement's still learning the sport, her children -- 11-year-old Luther and 5-year-old George -- already have donned wire-mesh masks and lunged for "touch" scores.
"Kids just love the idea of a dueling competition," she said. "It's quite athletic, so they get a good workout, but it's also a lot of fun. We now have electric scoring equipment, so they get the feedback when they get a touch. And they get to meet all sorts of different people.
"All the kids say the main reason they like it is it's a lot of fun, but it does require a lot of thinking and a lot of strategy, and we have a lot of families that enjoy that."
Teams from 20 countries will compete during this weekend's USA Saber World Cup at Bartle Hall Conference Center in Kansas City, Mo.
Competition begins today at 1 p.m., with individual competition.
The top 64 individuals will face off in elimination matches beginning at 1 p.m. Saturday, leading up to fencing demonstrations at 6 p.m. and the individual "final four" at 7 p.m.
Team events are scheduled from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday.
All events are free and open to the public.