Concentration game — About two years ago, Bill Hooper saw fencing on TV and thought, how hard can this be? He signed up for a class and found out. 'It's more difficult than it looks,' says the Naples 15-year-old, right, after a practice bout with Ross DeAngelias, 14. Both are in the Competitive Epee class at Salle de Napoli in Naples. 'Great fencers make it look easy,' Hooper says, 'but what they're doing is impossibly hard.' Instructor Randall LeMaster agrees. 'This is an oddball sport,' he says. 'It requires a lot of brain power. You have to learn to be relaxed, calm, cool and collected while someone is trying to impale you.' 'When I fence,' Hooper says, 'I block out everyone watching and try to stay focused. You never know when they're going to come charging at you.' He'll need that focus next month at the Junior Olympics in Hartford, Conn. LeMaster expects Hooper — and two other students from the center — to finish in the top 64 out of about 200 competitors. Beyond competition, Hooper says he hopes his fencing skills will help him to get into college. 'He has good athletic skills,' his coach says, 'but his rapid problem-solving capabilities and great brain power is what got him where he's at. 'With his work ethic, and the way he keeps improving, there is a strong possibility he could get a scholarship.' Published Jan. 30, 2006

Photo by Darron R. Silva, Daily News

Concentration game — About two years ago, Bill Hooper saw fencing on TV and thought, how hard can this be? He signed up for a class and found out. "It's more difficult than it looks," says the Naples 15-year-old, right, after a practice bout with Ross DeAngelias, 14. Both are in the Competitive Epee class at Salle de Napoli in Naples. "Great fencers make it look easy," Hooper says, "but what they're doing is impossibly hard." Instructor Randall LeMaster agrees. "This is an oddball sport," he says. "It requires a lot of brain power. You have to learn to be relaxed, calm, cool and collected while someone is trying to impale you." "When I fence," Hooper says, "I block out everyone watching and try to stay focused. You never know when they're going to come charging at you." He'll need that focus next month at the Junior Olympics in Hartford, Conn. LeMaster expects Hooper — and two other students from the center — to finish in the top 64 out of about 200 competitors. Beyond competition, Hooper says he hopes his fencing skills will help him to get into college. "He has good athletic skills," his coach says, "but his rapid problem-solving capabilities and great brain power is what got him where he's at. "With his work ethic, and the way he keeps improving, there is a strong possibility he could get a scholarship." Published Jan. 30, 2006

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