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His point is to keep in touch

Bruno Goossens was one of the top junior fencers in France in the 1960s,and he has been ranked in the top 10 in the United States as recently asthree years ago.

At 51 years old, you would think the retired doctor would be losing someof his competitive edge.

But Goossens proved that age is only a number during last week's StateGames of Oregon. The Jacksonville resident won the gold medal in the opendivision of epee, one of fencing's three events. He also took a silver inthe 40-and-over division.

Fencing is a sport that you can easily get hooked on, saysGoossens, who will compete at a national tournament in Santa Clara, Calif.,this weekend. It takes years of practice to really get good at it,to learn all the tricks and skills, but it's a lot of fun and it's greatexercise. You sweat like a pig.

Goossens, who takes aerobics classes and lifts weights in addition toworking out at a fencing club in Ashland, had to win 10 matches in one dayto secure his gold medal at the State Games.

He beat a man nearly half his age in the finals.

Goossens compares fencing to boxing in that each sport requires quickness,coordination, strategy and continual movement, with opponents attemptingto strike one another while at the same time defending themselves.

Fencing isn't nearly as dangerous as boxing, however, because the competitorswear protective clothing and gear. Equipment includes a mask, jacket, glovesand breeches.

You do get some bruises and, once in a while, a cut, saysGoossens, pulling up a pant leg to reveal a wound he suffered recently inpractice.

The matches last four minutes or until one of the combatants registersfive touches.

Competitions are held with three weapons ­ the foil, the epee andthe saber. The foil and epee have long, flexible blades and are used forthrusting attacks. The saber's blade, unlike the other two, has two cuttingedges and is used either for thrusting or slashing.

The weapons also have different shields, or bell guards, and the weaponscall for different contact points for scoring purposes. In foil, a pointis scored only if the opponent's trunk, back or front is struck. In epee,a hit may be scored on any part of the body, while in saber, touches mustland on the body at any point above the waist.

Scoring is determined electronically.

Fencing was once exclusively a form of combat before being introducedas a sport in the 14th century.

Goossens, who has had a sword in his hands for some 32 years, is oneof about 30 members in the Ashland club.

A native of Algeria who moved to France with his family in 1962 whenAlgeria broke out in civil war, Goossens was a standout pentathlete duringhis youth. The modern pentathlon involves swimming, running, horseback riding,shooting and fencing.

Goossens was on the national junior pentathlon team in 1968 and sayshe had a legitimate chance of making the French Olympic team that year.But he chose to study medicine instead.

If I had to do it over again, I would have pursued the Olympicsand put my medical career on hold, he says. The Olympics isvery special. Maybe in my next life.

Although international fencing competitions have been dominated overthe years by the French, Italians and Hungarians, the sport has gained popularityin the United States, Goossens says. He notes that American Iris Zimmermanis the No. 1-ranked female in the world in the under-20 age division.

Locally, the sport has established a foothold but could use a betterfacility, Goossens says.

It's a great sport for kids, he says. It's a way totake your aggressions out, reduce your stress and increase your mental toughness.

And in Goossens' case, win a gold medal.

Bruno Goossens, a fencer most of his life, recently won two State Games of Oregon medals. - Photo by Andy Atkinson</P