It’s never too late to pursue a passion
Al Landoni’s interest in fencing goes back almost 40 years.
“I looked into fencing when I was in my 40s but I was too busy with my career and my family,” the 77-year-old Niagara-on-the-Lake resident said. “I didn’t do it because of the commitment. To me, I have to fully commit to something or I don’t do it at all.”
The retired computer system manager kept himself active in his younger days by coaching his kids in soccer, basketball and hockey and later he turned to cross country skiing in the winter and dragon boating in the summer.
But his interest in fencing never waned.
In 2018, his kids came over to his house with a City of St Catharines parks and recreation booklet and told him that he needed to do something in the winter to keep busy.
“I looked at it and it was ‘Oh they have fencing.’ But I wasn’t going to tell them I was into fencing in case they didn’t want me to do it.”
Instead, he expressed an interest in ukulele and yodelling
“They said, ‘Ukulele, that’s nice’ but when I said yodelling they said, ‘Oh no.’ I told them that they had asked me to find something and they told me to find something else.”
Five minutes later he came back with the idea of fencing and his kids agreed with it.
“If I had told them fencing originally, they would have told me that I was crazy.”
Landoni joined the Niagara Swords Fencing Club and knew immediately that he had found a sporting home.
“I loved the coach (Chris Richardson) right away and one day Tim (Stang) came by. He talked to me but he was watching what everyone else was doing and I knew I was in the right place. He is very detail-oriented and that is what you need to become better.”
Landoni trains at the Niagara club threes times a week and also trains at home four times a week. That training schedule has produced plenty of success including: silver in foil at the 2018 Ontario championships and silver in foil and bronze in epee at the 2018 Canadian championships; silver in foil at the 2019 Ontario championships; gold in epee at the 2019 Canadian championships; bronze in epee at the 2019 Can-Am Veterans Cup; gold in epee at the 2021 Ontario championships; bronze in epee at the 2021 Can-Am Veterans Cup; gold in epee at the 2022 Ontario championships; silver in epee at the 2023 Ontario championships; and, bronze in epee at the 2023 Can-Am Veterans Cup.
To be successful, requires a lot of factors to be in place.
“You have to be disciplined, you have to be patient which I am not, you have to be observant, you have slow down and get the right movement and then you can speed it up. You can do it fast at the beginning but you are not going to do it right,” he said. “You also have to be observant of yourself and your coach. You have to observant of your own strength and weaknesses and those of your fellow fencer.”
He encourages other ‘older’ people to try the sport.
“You improve physically. I used to be size 38 and now I have gradually got down to 33. I had to buy a whole new wardrobe,” said Landoni, who came to Canada from Uruquay 54 year ago. “Health-wise it was a great improvement and the fact that you are with other people that have common interests. With younger people it is ‘What is this old man doing here?’ The first year we were somewhat equal and the second year they were way better than me. But they forced me to be a little bit better and the week before a competition I am a lot harder to beat because I am in a different frame of mind.”
Landoni’s bronze in epee at the 2023 Can-Am Veterans Cup, competing against people from the United States, Hong Kong, Bermuda and Ghana, qualified him to attend the World Cup in Daytona Beach, Fla.
“I am excited about qualifying for it but I try to be realistic. A guy who started doing this four years ago to go against people who were Olympic, European, Canadian and American champions, nah, nah, nah,” he said. “Even if they are 70, those guys have memories in their brains. If you wink, they know whether your wink is real or fake. I am excited that I can go but I won’t go.”
He plans to continue in the sport for as long as possible which is fitting because the club fencing is part of Brock’s Sport for Life programming.
“He has fallen in love with the sport and he is one of my best athletes to date,” Stang said. “He never misses a practice, he trains on days when we don’t have training, he does his own strength training, he watches fencing videos and he is an absolute performance athlete for his age.”
Landoni is the oldest athlete in Brock Fencing Club’s community program which runs from the age of six to 77.
“The average age off my adult participants is probably in their 40s,” Stang said.