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Local fencers score big at tournament in Miami.

Students at the Virginia Academy of Fencing won big in Miami this past month and are ready to keep going.

Hannah Bowden of Springfield won the 10 Years and Under Women's Epee Event moments after speaking with her father in Baghdad, who then listened to her win over the phone. Phil Sbarbaro of Vienna, a retired lawyer in his early 60s, will go on to compete at the Veteran Fencing Championships in Sydney, Australia in September.

Alexander Eldeib of Burke was one of two Virginia Academy of Fencing students to win gold. Four students also won bronze medals.

A saber is traditionally a weapon used for horseback fighting, and the target areas in fencing with it are the front of the opponent and one-third of the back. An epee, (the word is derived from "rapier") can be used to target the entire body.

Bowden went with her mother, Nancy, two years ago to fencing classes and soon developed her own ability. At this, her first national event, her father happened to call from Iraq just before her turn. "He was upset that he was unable to be there, but he talked to her and gave her pointers," Nancy Bowden said.

"It was really cool," Hannah Bowden said. "I don't think I ever want to quit." She is also interested in tae kwon do.

"Phil is extremely athletic," said Fencing Master Alexandre Ryjik, who coaches Sbarbaro. "It's amazing, he's only been fencing for three years, while some people will spend 40, 50 years getting to this level."

Sbarbaro became interested in fencing when he brought his daughters to their fencing lessons, but continued even after they quit. He is currently resuming training after getting some rest in Cape Cod.

According to his instructor, Sbarbaro would train for two hours a day, five or six days a week, before nationals. "He is an example to everyone with his work ethic and determination."

"Being older, I may be more cunning, but I'm slower," said Sbarbaro. "I was a stroker in college, and I've taught tennis, but this is much more difficult."

"Strategy and speed are important," he said, "but having Alex Ryjik as a coach gives one a decisive advantage."

All of a fencers’ situations could be summed up by Phil Sbarbaro: "Last year, the fellow won by just one touch. This year, I won by just one touch. It makes you think about life, how much everything can be affected by one touch."