GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) — A Greensboro teen with cerebral palsy has found his talent and now is looking to compete at the highest levels.
14-year-old Abe Kaplan tried his luck at a number of sports just like any other child his age. He tried karate, soccer, flag football and horseback riding before he found his perfect match in the art of fencing.
The sword-fighting combat sport requires skill, stamina and strategy.
“It’s not just a fight. It’s like a chess match like you said how you have to think ten steps ahead or you’re going to lose,” said Abe
Abe has proven himself to be a quick learner after taking up the sport during the pandemic as a way to stay in shape.
“He came to us with no knowledge of fencing at all. He is out there now competing locally and regionally in sanctioned and unsanctioned events. He’s quite a fierce competitor,” said Randall Hinds, the owner and coach of Greensboro Fencing Academy.
Now, Abe spends five days out of the week at Greensboro Fencing Academy on Wendover Avenue, honing his craft.
“A lot of practice goes into mastering things, making sure you know what you are doing you know, practice – practice – practice,” said Hinds.
Abe’s parents are immensely proud of what their teenage son has been able to accomplish thus far.
“His determination really sets him apart from other kids,” said Eric Kaplan, Abe’s father.
Determination is not the only thing that sets Abe apart. He had a stroke around the time he was born and was diagnosed with cerebral palsy when he was six months old.
“Makes it difficult for him to use his right arm [and] his right hand, he wears a brace on his foot so it affects the way he walks,” said Karen Kaplan, Abe’s mother.
However, when Abe fences and takes on children that are taller and more able-bodied, his struggles vanish.
“That’s why we were really excited about fencing, because it is a one-handed sport. He loves light sabers and Star Wars too so he was naturally drawn to it,” said Karen Kaplan.
Now the wall in Abe’s room is filled with medals, marking his accomplishments in fencing thus far.
“His wall is covered in medals. He has won at least three tournaments against able-bodied fencers and usually places in the top half if not higher,” said Eric Kaplan.
When Abe equips his mask and has his weapon in his hand, he is not focused on his limits but instead finds ways to get around them.
“My limitedness is only in the higher fields like B or A-rated fencer which is the highest you can get right now. I am doing good in able-body but I know there is going to be a cap. Right now I am not at that but I know at some point I am going to reach that,” said Abe.
Now, Abe has decided to take his coach’s advice and try parafencing.
“It’s kind of surreal. It is amazing how quickly the snowball from ‘Let’s give this a try’ to, I mean, frankly having the potential to be a Paralympian in 2028. That’s really the goal,” said Eric Kaplan
Abe’s hard work has paid off and others are beginning to take notice. He has now been invited to train with the Georgia National Team in Gainesville, Fla.
“I am really excited to meet all the new people and meet the Georgians and learn about their culture and the cultural exchange. I think that will be really cool,” said Abe.
In light of her son’s accomplishments, Abe’s mother has expressed her gratitude to everyone who dedicated their time to help Abe get stronger mentally and physically since he was just nine months old.
“I don’t think we would be where we are today without those people at Cone Health Outpatient,” said Karen Kaplan.
Thanks to everyone who helped along the way, Abe is now able to lunge at every opportunity that comes his way.
“He really puts a lot of thought into his game he’s very strategic in how he approaches his opponents,” said Hinds.
Now, Abe looks to put his all into attacking the sport that he loves.
“To pull off all these things it is just really cool to do, especially during a bout, it is really fun,” said Abe.
Showing everyone from his parents to other children with disabilities that you can achieve anything with confidence and determination.
“I think he has always had a pretty positive attitude about his disability. Like I said, he’s never really let it hold him back,” said Karen Kaplan
“I think he is a great ambassador for disabled children,” said Eric Kaplan.
Abe and his father will depart for Florida to train with the Georgian National Team next week. His parents are extremely appreciative of how the fencing community has embraced their son.
Friday is also the last day of Cerebral Palsy Month.
To learn how to help push for more opportunities for those living with cerebral palsy visit the Greensboro Cerebral Palsy Association’s website.