H54K: Augusta 15-year-old nationally ranked in fencing

H54K: Augusta 15-year-old nationally ranked in fencing
Rhys Bender, a 15 year-old who is nationally ranked in the sport of fencing.

AUGUSTA, GA (WFXG) - Every week FOX 54’s “High 5 4 Kids” celebrates kids who go above and beyond, who rise above their circumstances or who strive to be the best.

This week we’re celebrating Rhys Bender, a 15-year-old who is nationally ranked in the sport of fencing.

Most days after school you can find Rhys sharpening his skills at Augusta Fencers Club.

“That feeling you get when you’re on the strip fencing people it’s really fun,” he said. “I really liked just free bouting people, going to tournaments, things like that, and that’s really what drives me to end up coming to the sale and working hard here.”

And when he’s not practicing, he “loves playing video games, reading manga,” his mother, Sarah Bender said.

“He’s decided he wants to learn Japanese, so he’s doing that online instead of taking Spanish that’s offered at his high school, just because it’s fun, and it’s challenging, and he wants more,” she said.

Rhys’s mother also teaches fencing at the Augusta Fencers Club, and she taught him the sport when he was 8 year-old.

He used to fence foil – picking up the epee style only a year ago. He earned a national “E” ranking in his very first epee competition.

He moved to a “D” in the next competition, and after that: “he earned his ‘B’ that day which was really exciting for us. We weren’t expecting that,” Sarah said. “We’re really proud of him.”

That means Rhys is recognized as one of the best in the country, and now he’s striving for the “A.” So what sets him apart?

“More than anything his tenacity, his competitive tenacity,” his coach and Augusta Fencer Club owner, Dr. Rudy Volkmann said. “Like all developing fencers when the going gets really tough and furious, we tend to fall back into old habits and this kind of thing, but he always manages to pull out of that and put in that little extra spark of effort.”

“I specifically try to analyze what my opponents were doing and figure out what I could do to counter it,” Rhys said.

The practice - helping him come in second out of 43 fencers from all over in the “Big Chicken tournament” in Marietta this past weekend.

“I definitely want to keep on fencing as long as my body will let me,” Rhys said.

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