Go for the Gold Family Style

Instead of just curling up on the couch with your family to watch the Olympics this month, why not try competing yourself? You won’t have to fly to Brazil — we’ve found local options for fan favorites like archery, fencing and table tennis.

They’re perfect for the whole family to experience Olympic-sized excitement, with familiar faces as your competition.

NC Archery Center

While sports like swimming and track and field may get the most press coverage during the Summer Olympics, archery took the gold in the 2012 games as the most watched sport on cable channels, according to NBC, with more than 1.5 million viewers.

Kevin Franklin, 12, takes aim during a Junior Olympic Archery Development class at the NC Archery Center in Raleigh.

Movies like “The Hunger Games” and “Brave,” with their straight-shooting heroines, have boosted the sport’s recent popularity. Justin Rogers, owner of North Carolina Archery Center in Raleigh, says archery’s long history also gives it staying power.

“Archery goes back and predates everything,” said Rogers. “It’s the oldest weapon. Cavemen were using spears and bow and arrows. The history behind it and all the different forms, you could go on about it for days.”

Rogers’ personal history with archery dates to his childhood, using a bow and arrow to hunt with his dad on the farm where he grew up. These days he can still often be found with a bow in his hand, but for teaching instead of hunting.

Davis Lingner, 12, holds a pin he earned at his Junior Olympic Archery Development class as he poses for a photo with coach Brian Barnett.

After five years of working at a large outdoor supply store, Rogers opened the archery center as a way to give more specialized attention to a sport he says is truly for everyone.

“I grew up playing every sport on the planet,” said Rogers. “I played football, baseball, basketball. Those other sports aren’t as inclusive as archery. You have to be an athlete for a lot of those other sports. In archery, I taught a girl who has spina bifida, who shot in a wheelchair.”

The Archery Center offers introductory classes, private lessons, and even a six-week course that prepares students for the center’s Junior Olympic Archery Development program.

“We have kids who compete in everything from local to state to national tournaments,” Rogers said. “Some shoot nationally, some just come and do it for fun and earn pins from us as their scores improve.”

Archers practice at the NC Archery Center.

The center also hosts a statewide tournament sponsored by the National Field Archery Association, or NFAA, that’s popular with young archers, partly because it’s held at the center’s 20-lane indoor range.

Families looking to explore archery can sign up for private group lessons. Rogers says the age recommendation is 8 and older, but admits that it varies; his own kids have been shooting since they were 4. For these private lessons, the center provides equipment. The intro class offered at NCAC is $60.

“Anybody can pick up this sport,” said Rogers. “You can pick up a bow and arrow and see results. And that’s what separates it to me — literally anybody can do it.”

NC Archery Center
6718 Old Wake Forest Road, Raleigh
(919) 676-6799

Apex Fencing Academy

For Igor Moreno and Kriszti Hovanyi, fencing is more than just a hobby — they both fenced growing up, which landed them spots on the Ohio State University fencing team where they met.

After they married and had children, the couple realized they wanted to pass on the fencing tradition, and started teaching the sport privately at home.

Sixteen-year-olds Kenan Ratliff, left, and Eduardo Marin face off during practice at Apex Fencing Academy, at Middle Creek Community Center.

In 2010, they moved the lessons from their bonus room to the Middle Creek Community Center, and Apex Fencing Academy was born.

“It’s a really cool sport,” said Hovanyi. “It’s unique in that it has so many different skills that you need to develop. You actually have to do a lot of tactical thinking while you do a lot of difficult physical exercise.”

One of the oldest traditions in Olympic history, fencing has been a staple of the summer games since 1896 in Athens.

There are three types of weapons in fencing: foil, epee and sabre. Foil and epee are taught at the academy because these are the easiest and safest weapons to handle; sabre is the only weapon considered to be a “cutting” weapon, meaning that in addition to points being scored with the tip, they can also be scored with edges and surfaces of the blade.

Colson Combs, left, Stephen Kubik and Kenan Ratliff talk shop during a break during fencing practice at Middle Creek Community Center.

Beyond the physical skills of agility, balance, hand-eye coordination, speed and timing, both Moreno and Hovanyi praise fencing for the mental skills it requires.

“It is extremely tactical, and you really get to use your analysis skills because you have to understand what your opponent is doing and then find your strengths,” said Moreno.

Hovanyi added, “The mental aspect is really where I think fencing shines over other sports.”

Apex Fencing Academy has many options for families interested in exploring the sport, including siblings fencing against one another, parent and child duels, and child classes.
Families just starting out can try the Beginning Fencing I class; it ranges from five to eight sessions, and costs around $100, not including equipment rental.

Stephen Kubik, left, faces off with Bilal Sayid.

Colson Combs, left, and Bilal Saiyid, both 13, train during Apex Fencing Academy practice.

All Apex Fencing Academy classes are held at Middle Creek Community Center. Registration is available at townofcary.org; follow the link to “Register for Programs & Classes.”

Moreno and Hovanyi say the most popular reason children come to fencing is movies like “Lord of the Rings” and “Pirates of the Caribbean” that show sword fighting and duels.

“We get emails all the time from parents saying, ‘I got my kid a “Lord of the Rings” sword and he can’t put it down. He’s 2, when can he start?’” Moreno said with a laugh. “If parents knew that fencing was out there, there would be a lot more attention to it.”

Apex Fencing Academy
123 Middle Creek Park Avenue, Apex
(919) 771-1295

Triangle Table Tennis

With an estimated 40 million players at the competitive level and millions more playing recreationally worldwide, table tennis has earned the title of most widely played sport featured in the Olympic Games.

Cary 8-year-old Anva Gupta keeps his eyes on the ball while playing his father, Arvind, at the Triangle Table Tennis Center in Morrisville.

Ann Campbell’s son was one such competitive player, and after spending years crisscrossing the country from New York to California to attend competitions, she realized that a center closer to home would help families like her own.

“After traveling and repeatedly seeing multiple people from the Triangle who were meeting at these remote events, I realized there was a core of dedicated players in the area. But there was no dedicated place for players to play seven days a week and (a place to) bring in qualified coaches,” said Campbell.

Now, two years later, Triangle Table Tennis in Morrisville is the largest table tennis facility in the United States, and the permanent home of USA Table Tennis’ display of artifacts, which include items from the early days of the sport as well as plaques of USATT Hall of Fame members. It has been declared an International Training Hot Spot by the International Table Tennis Federation, one of only five others with that distinction in the nation.

Eleven-year-old Ganning Xu returns the ball while playing his mother, Chengjin, at the Triangle Table Tennis Center in Morrisville.

USATT has also declared the center one of just 10 National Centers of Excellence.

“This was an industrial facility that was completely renovated,” said Tom Gabriel, the center’s manager. “The best thing is when you see a place like this that was built to be used on a large scale, when we have tournaments or leagues or lots of lessons and you see it fill up with players, that’s when it’s really fun.”

Many options are available for families looking to explore table tennis, like the center’s open hours during the day, which cost $12 a person, although Gabriel recommends private group lessons for beginners.

“You want to get the technique right,” he explained. “Then you can go into a group and practice with a partner or go into a competitive league.”

Beda Jain and son Aditya, 10, challenge Jain’s son Aryan, 14, to a game of table tennis.

Left: Carson Park-Walters, 15, plays his father, Mike Walters.

Right: Aditya Jain and his father, Beda, team up in a game of table tennis at the Triangle Table Tennis Center in Morrisville.

Cary 8-year-old Anva Gupta keeps his eyes on the ball while playing his father, Arvind.

In addition to individual and group lessons, the center offers memberships of varying lengths, which include extra perks like discounts on merchandise at the pro shop and access to the center’s fitness room.

More than anything, Gabriel encourages families to join for the fast-paced fun.

“It’s just such an exciting sport to play,” he said. “It’s also so accessible, no matter who you are, and it doesn’t discriminate between men and women or young and adult. It’s just a sport that seems to lend itself to being open to everyone.”

Triangle Table Tennis
2900 Perimeter Park Drive, Suite 200, Morrisville
(919) 388-0272

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