ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – Olympic fencing is not a sport you hear about often.
In fact, when this week’s Getting Results Award winner opened a fencing academy, most of the calls he received were from people asking him to put up a fence in their backyard.
Now he’s putting together tournaments with hundreds of athletes and changing lives in the process.
Carlos Kuri is the owner of the Avalon Sword Masters academy in East Orange County.
He opened his business a year and a half ago and has since offered scholarships to close to 30 students. A significant number considering Kuri said fencing is one of the top ways students can earn a college sports scholarship.
“This is the No. 1 sport for college scholarships in America,” Kuri said. “And it’s sad, it makes no sense when you think that a sport with that characteristic is not accessible to the kids who need it most.”
Kuri may be the biggest cheerleader for the sport here in Central Florida. He said he’s seen children who are shy and reserved open up when they pull their protective mask down. He said eventually those same kids gain confidence without the mask.
“They transform, because they feel like they’re hiding," Kuri said. "So you see how their behavior changes when they’re fencing and then they take it off again and they remain shy. But if you do it long enough, one good day they take the mask off and they no longer change.”
The former teacher and owner of an animation production company is using his communication experience to get the word out.
“Although the United States fencing Association is doing a phenomenal job to promote the sport, there are still tons of things that we can do to contribute,” Kuri said.
“When my son and I started doing this sport I just realized there was a gap in what people were perceiving and what was actually happening," he said. "We decided to do everything in our power to help communicate all the wonderful things about fencing,” Kuri later said.
Kuri began offering free lessons and equipment at his academy to qualified families.
“We noticed fencing was inaccessible to a lot of people because the equipment, while it’s not terribly expensive, it’s not a hockey stick, it’s a lot. You need a mask, you need blades, you need spares. There’s travel.”
Hector Breton said the scholarships have allowed his children to compete and travel to distant competitions.
“I can’t express what it has done for them in terms of their character,” Brenton said. “What Sword Masters has done for the community, I can’t express it in words. They deserve more than an award, more than recognition.”
Kuri helped organize a regional Olympic fencing competition earlier this month at the South Econ Recreational Center in East Orange County. Kuri said the event was the largest ever held in the state, attracting more than 600 competitors from as far away as California, South America and Korea.
The event allowed competitors to earn points toward national competitions.
Kuri was nominated for the News Six Getting Results Award by Anthony Poole-Abiel.
“I say he’s the glue to the fencing community,” Poole-Abiel said. “He has a bright light, a big heart and he gives it out to the community through those scholarships.”
“I hope we can inspire people in the state and country and world to help us promote and fund the sport to make it accessible to all kids,” Kuri said.
Donations toward the scholarship fund can be made through The Duckout Association. The nonprofit helps distribute sports and educational camp scholarships.