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Bellaire, the center of the fencing universe? Olympians quietly train in our midst, drawn by Rice guru

Bellaire, the center of the fencing universe? Olympians quietly train in our midst, drawn by Rice guru

Salle Mauro Fencing, Group Fencing, June 2012
Photo by Karen Burd
Salle Mauro Fencing, Group, June 2012
More than 60 fencers lined the pistes at Salle Mauro Fencing Academy this week.  Photo by Karen Burd
Salle Mauro Fencing, June 2012
Many of the young fencers will go on to compete in the 2012 U.S.A. Fencing National Championships, which attracts thousands of competitors and begins on Friday.  Photo by Karen Burd
Salle Mauro Fencing, Training, June 2012
Photo by Karen Burd
Salle Mauro Fencing, Child, June 2012
The camp appeals to fencers of all ages.  Photo by Karen Burd
Salle Mauro Fencing, Group Fencing, June 2012
Salle Mauro Fencing, Group, June 2012
Salle Mauro Fencing, June 2012
Salle Mauro Fencing, Training, June 2012
Salle Mauro Fencing, Child, June 2012

On a recent weekday morning, the scene inside of Bellaire's Salle Mauro Fencing Academy was a tangle of foils, epees, masks and gloves, children and pre-teens in various stages of undress from starched white jackets and stiff lamés

The annual Camp Victory drew dozens of fencers from all over the country to train with top trainers and international competitors — including highly-ranked Italian Olympic qualifier Valerio Aspromonte, and Dallas-based brother-sister duo Zain and Mona Shaito, who will represent Lebanon in the Summer Olympics in London.

"When you teach something, it helps you learn it," Dan Gorman, a full-time coach at Salle Mauro, tells CultureMap.

The Olympic competitors will continue with their footwork and conditioning in the weeks leading up to the London games. Doling out individual tips and sparring with amateur competitors represents just another facet of that training.

 "When you teach something, it helps you learn it," Dan Gorman, a full-time coach at Salle Mauro, tells CultureMap.  

Another draw for the Olympic athletes and coaches is Mauro Hamza, owner of Salle Mauro, fencing coordinator for Rice University and the U.S. national coach for men's foil fencing. As a former Egyptian fencer and a longtime coach, Hamza is well known and respected in the international fencing circuit.   

All of that expertise attracted a far-reaching crowd of fencers to the five-day Camp Victory in anticipation of the 2012 U.S.A. Fencing National Championships, which began in Anaheim, Calif. on Friday. 

"The caliber is very high here," says Hamza, who pointed out competitive young fencers (including his own son, 10-year-old prodigy Mohamed Hamza), many of whom will compete in the national championships this weekend.

In preparation, students spent the fifth and final day of camp in simulation of the bracket-style competition that they will see at the championships, strings of body cord keeping tally of each hit and causing a complicated web of wires along the pistes

Gorman says that the gym isn't quite so hectic on a regular week, when the staff at Salle Mauro offers classes and private lessons to adults and children, beginners and swashbucklers. Find more information here.