USA Fencing announced that the Division I NAC to be held in Portland, OR in April would be replaced with the Division I National Championships. The change in the schedule was made in response to USA Fencing’s winning bid to host the 2011 Pan American Zonal Championships.

The change was made by USA Fencing’s Executive Director, Greg Dilworth, who made the change in consultation with National Event staff, the National Coaches and USA Fencing President Kalle Weeks. Based on public and private reactions to the announcement, it seems that not all member of USA Fencing’s Executive Committee were aware of the upcoming schedule changes.

The Pan American Zonal Championships is open to fencers of countries in the “Americas” Olympic zone and placement at the individual events earn FIE ranking points equal to a Grand Prix event. These zonal championship events are key events in the ranking of fencers during the qualification process for the 2012 London Olympic Games.

Greg Dilworth
Greg Dilworth - Executive Director USA Fencing

Given the financial shortfalls of USA Fencing and the expectation of holding even or increasing the budget deficit during the final two years of the Olympic quad, how is USA Fencing going to pay for this event? “A budget variance will be submitted to the BOD in September,” said Mr. Dilworth. “Because of the logistics of this particular event and only needing to expand upon space already contracted the costs will be relatively small (~$30K – $50K). We spent more than that (~$63K) this year sending our teams to Costa Rica.”

Scheduling around the 2011 Summer Nationals looks to have been done to improve on economies of scale for the event as well as to provide a tournament environment friendly to the US fencers: “2011 is a key year for team and individual qualifications to the 2012 Olympics.” said Mr. Dilworth. “We are pleased that our athletes will have the opportunity to compete on home soil with less travel and more familiar surroundings. We also hope that large numbers of USA Fencers will be there to cheer them on.”

The Pan American Zonal Championships will be held in a separate area of the same convention center as the US Summer Nationals. USA Fencing will provide an additional (1) bout committee member to run that event and the referees are provided by the Pan American federation. USA Fencing needs to supply additional grounded strips and scoring equipment, which the Executive Director states they already in process of securing the necessary gear.

Plans for the Pan American Zonal Championships are to have scheduled finals each evening of the competition – which should provide fencers who make the trip to the US Summer Nationals with more high level and entertaining bouts to watch.

One of the negative effects of the move is that the national tournament schedule loses one of the Division I North American Cup events. The number of Div I events moves from 3 to 2, with participation in the April Division I Nationals limited to those US fencers who have earned qualifying national or international points by the entry deadline.