Little Ute Breden didn't intimidate her opponents as she readied for the fencing competition at yesterday's Capital Games. The 10-year-old fencer headlined a parade of unlikely and inspiring medal winners on the final day of competition in Washington's own "state games" at American University's Bender Arena.
Breden plays soccer and tennis in Germantown, Md., but she fences better than almost all 10-year-olds in the United States. Last year she finished second in her age group at the national championships.
Yesterday, the 4-foot-6 Breden even kept her adult opponents off balance. She earned a silver medal in the women's foil event, losing to Washingtonian Carla Sabloff in the final.
Breden's younger brother, Roland, 9, finished third in the men's sabre. Bela Babus of Washington won the event. Sicilia Chinn of Reston won the women's sabre.
Nearby, the Petherbridge family from Woodbridge gathered up a handful of medals in the judo competition.
Richard Petherbridge said he brought his son and daughter to compete alongside him because "the Capital Games are good for all of us. It keeps kids off the street and gives them an understanding of the competitive aspects of life."
Teenage judo novice Tammara Peyton of Laurel won the junior lightweight gold medal.
The most inspiring performance of the Capital Games belonged to 67-year-old Mary Ballard of Point of Rocks, Md. A competitive synchronized swimmer for 15 years, Ballard had a seizure while practicing in a pool in January. A few days later, she had surgery to remove a benign brain tumor.
To facilitate her recuperation, Ballard returned to her synchronized swimming two months after the operation. "That was the best. I was so happy to be back in the water," said Ballard.
Yesterday, she made her comeback complete by winning a silver medal in the masters division for her solo routine to "Rhapsody in Blue." Ballard also took home a gold medal in the masters team event.
In addition to sponsoring competition in basketball, tennis and swimming, the Capital Games also had a sombo wrestling event, which drew a contingent from the Philadelphia area as well as local participants.
Sombo wrestling combines movements from Greco-Roman and freestyle wrestling with elements of the martial arts.
Two local wrestlers won their weight classes in sombo: Eugene Brodetski of Rockville at 114 pounds and John Brobst of Fairfax at 220.
In women's basketball, Hot to Go Express of Washington won the gold medal. Ted's Elites of Bethesda finished second.