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'It was time for another challenge': Superstar Korean Olympic fencing coach plants roots in North Texas to train new champions

Despite how highly he was sought after, Hyo Kun Lee decided to move to the U.S. in 2018 -- without knowing a word of English.

DALLAS — Fencing is not a terribly popular sport in Texas, but it just might be soon.

Hyo Kun Lee is the head coach at the fencing club, Globus Fencing Academy, in Farmers Branch. And remarkably, he trains his North Texas fencers almost entirely in Korean.

As a competitor, Lee represented Korea in the Seoul and Atlanta Olympic games before he was tapped as Olympic team coach. For years, he built champion after champion in Korea. 

Despite how highly he was sought after, Lee decided to move to the U.S. in 2018 -- without knowing a word of English.

“I thought it might be time for another challenge,” he told WFAA through a translator.

In America, the sport of fencing is dominated by powerhouse clubs in coastal states like New York and California. The few fencers in places like North Texas generally don’t get coached by people like Lee.

That’s exactly why he says he moved here.

“Because there weren’t too many great clubs or athletes here,” he told WFAA. “It was a challenge.”

Taylor Chon was one of his first American students.

“For someone of that caliber to come to the south…we didn’t even know how long it would last,” Chon said.

Lee never left Chon, now ranked third in the country and fourth in the world in his division.

“In a way I almost felt like I owed it to him. I want to do this for me, but I also want to do this for Coach Lee," Chon said,

Chon is one of many of Lee's local success stories. Podium photos and college flags line the Globus gym walls as proof.

Young fencers like Clark Scott and Ariel Ko already have big goals.

“My main goal is I want to make fencing popular just how football is popular,” Scott said.

“Maybe as I get a lot older maybe try going to the Olympics,” Ko told WFAA.

Interestingly enough, a few of Lee’s students are Korean-American. But the majority are not. 

Yet somehow, he's able to train them all with the few English words he’s learned over the years.

When he runs out of those, Chon said Lee is able to coach them by moving their bodies into the right position.

“If we’re doing it wrong, he’ll come over and fix you up and show you the right way,” Chon explained. "He’s been doing that to me since I was 11 or 12.”

It works so well, folks from those coastal states are now moving to North Texas to train with Lee.

And, at least for now, he's got no plan to leave.

“I travel a lot because of competition,” Lee said.

"I go to Europe, New York, everywhere. However, I noticed Texans are noticeably friendly. And that’s what I like the most," he said.

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