Touche, Sasha

Touche, Sasha

The "stop cut," is a fencing move Sasha Ryjik is still perfecting, even though the 10-year-old is still winning medals with a foil in hand. To score a point, the stop cut is a fake lunge toward the opponent while striking with precision.

Sasha, whose real name is Alexander, practices the stop cut with other moves at the Virginia Academy of Fencing in northern Springfield.

"It's where you stop like this and hit the saber on their arm and jump back," Sasha said.

Sasha's stop cut was in fashion last month at the National Championships, where he won a gold medal in the Youth-10 and Youth-12 Men's Saber categories at the National Championships, April 23-26, in Atlanta, Ga. Sasha also competed in the Junior Olympics in the past.

His father, Alex Ryjik, is from the former USSR and earned the rank of USSR Master of Sport, before his country became Russia. He teaches Sasha all there is to know about fencing.

"It's like a cross between chess and boxing," Alex Ryjik said.

The Ryjiks live in the Kingstowne and Sasha is a fifth-grader at Springfield Estates Elementary School. He plays soccer and the violin when he's not on the mat, decked out in protective clothes and screened helmet. He started fencing at age 8, stopped, and started again last year.

"I think it's fun being with my teammates, but it's a lot of work," Sasha said. "I have a few friends there I talk to, but when I'm fencing against them, they're my opponent."

AT SPRINGFIELD ESTATES, fencing isn't as popular as soccer or basketball, but a few students take classes at the academy with Sasha. Sasha's mother is from the Ukraine and plays the violin as well. He has been taking violin lessons after school for five years.

"My mom, she did violin, and her two sisters did it. I play classics," Sasha said.

Linda Domina, Springfield Estates principal, doesn't see many students involved in fencing.

"It's a very unique sport. He's one of the few students involved in it," Domina said.

On Monday, May 3, Sasha was on the morning news broadcast at the school, talking about his fencing experience.

"He's very enthusiastic and takes school seriously," Domina said.

After the National Championships in April, Sasha is taking a break and then will start training for the Summer National Championships in early July in Charlotte, N.C. He will compete in the Men's Saber Division I, the Under-16 category, as well as Youth-14, Youth-12 and Youth-10. Competing in the Under-16 is a feat, according to his father.

"It's remarkable that he qualified to fence under 16 years old," Alex Ryjik said.

On the podium in Atlanta with medals hanging around his neck, Sasha's smile couldn't hide his pride.

"I felt like the best," he said. "It feels really good when everybody's clapping for you."