Richmond athlete to carry Canada's colours

Richmond's fencer Dylan French (right) with Dynamo Fencing Club coach Victor Gantsevich has been selected to be Canada's flag bearer at next month's 2014 Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing, China. Gantsevich will also attend the Games as a coach.
— image credit: Don Fennell photo

One of Richmond's most decorated young fencers has been selected for one of the highest honours that can be bestowed on an athlete.

Dylan French will be Canada's flag bearer at the 2014 Youth Olympic Games Aug. 16 to 28 in Nanjing, China.

“It’s a great honour and I am very proud to be representing my country at the Youth Olympics,” says French, 17. “When I was younger I would always watch the Olympics and the opening ceremonies, so it is exciting to get this opportunity.”

A member of the locally-based Dynamo Fencing Club, French, 17, has already compiled an impressive list of athletic accomplishments. But he says this achievement is unique.

“I’m not only representing Canada at an Olympic Games, which has always been one of my ambitions, but carrying the flag as well which I never dreamed of. I can’t wait to get to China to meet the rest of the Canadian athletes.”

Richmond’s only athlete to be named to the Canada team, French, who has trained and competed extensively at the Richmond Olympic Oval, will be accompanied to the Games by his Dynamo Fencing Club mentor Victor Gantsevich, who has been selected to the Canadian coaching team.

The 2014 world cadet fencing bronze medallist, French will be competing in men’s epee at the Games, and possibly the team event as well. He knows the competition will be tough, but hopes to at least medal.

French’s parents are naturally elated for their son.

“It is wonderful to see Dylan get this opportunity,” says John French. “We are always amazed by his dedication, commitment and hard work and it is nice to see this recognized. We are lucky that he has a great coach in Victor (Gantsevich) and a great training environment here in Richmond.”

By coincidence, John French happens to be president of the B.C. Fencing Association and says  having one of its athletes as Canada’s flag bearer is a “huge” boost to the sport.

“A lot of people have put a lot of effort into fencing over the past few years, and we are starting to see an increase in both participation and in athletes winning medals at major events,” he says. “This will help promote the sport even more and hopefully encourage other people to give fencing a try.”

Igor Gantsevich, Victor’s son and formerly an elite-level Canadian fencer before injuries derailed his Olympic dreams, says having a fencer carry Canada’s colours can only be good for the sport.

“It means a lot for our future generation of athletes. It shows that anything is possible with hard work. Dylan is just as talented as any other kid we have ever had. He is and was ready to work much harder than any other kid,” says Igor, who is now an associate coach at Dynamo Fencing Club and a member of both the Pan American and Canadian Fencing Federation boards.

At the London Olympic Summer Games in 2012, one of Igor’s friends—Mariel Zagunis—was the flag bearer for the U.S. team. He believes that helped precipitate a huge growth in fencing in that country.

“We hope that this honour will have similar impact in Canada and locally in Richmond,” he says.


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