Archive for Flicking

USFA Nationals in Atlanta

Posted in Tournaments with tags , , , , , , on July 25, 2010 by Isabel Ford

About a week ago, I came back from a very special ten-day vacation.

I had always wanted to take a vacation that involved fencing, but this was a bit over the top: out of ten days spent in Atlanta, only ONE was spent doing anything other than fencing, watching fencing, or coaching fencing all day. And I loved it.

We left at 3:30 AM on July 4th. I had only had two hours of sleep, so I tried to snooze as much as possible during the drive to Portland and flight from there to Atlanta. I was mainly successful, and the trip was smooth and uninterrupted (except for the scene when I couldn’t fit my bag into the overhead compartment because there were two large fundraising books in the bag. It’s a long story).

Upon arrival at the house that the fencers in our club had rented for the trip, my mom and I took the walk, bus, two trains, and second walk to get to the competition venue. It was only two and a half miles away from the house, but it took between forty-five minutes and an hour to get there by public transport. Arriving at the Georgia World Congress Center, where the tournament was being held, we came in through the front entrance and followed the USFA signs that pointed us to the fencing room. We dragged our fencing equipment over A THIRD OF A MILE of escalators and carpeted floor, amid a caravan of other fencers carrying similar baggage, before we reached our destination.

The next week-and-a-half was a blast. I fenced Cadet (U16), Junior (U19), Senior Team (with my mom and a sallemate, Emma) and Div. 1A, all épée events.

Every day, the fencers from Salem would park their fencing bags in the shadow of a 15-foot-tall inflatable cow (an attention-grabber for Chick-Fil-A) that happened to be situated near the entrance to the fencing area. If you ask me, a fencing tournament is no place for anything inflatable, but the massive cow somehow survived Nationals puncture-free. Unfortunately, no one managed to get a picture of it.

Cadet, on July 5th, was tough. I spent the first half of my pool limping up and down the strip and cursing my injured hip (the price of having competed in another tough tournament the week before Nationals). After my third bout, I realized that my hip only hurt when I lunged awkwardly while lifting my front foot too high and bringing it down too hard. After practicing the painless version of my lunge a few times off-strip, I was able to use it in my next three bouts and had much better luck.

I had a bye for the first round of direct eliminations. In the second round I met Victoria Wines, a younger A10 who had placed 3rd in Y14 the day before. With no more pain (at least, not that I noticed when full of adrenaline), I won 15-10. Unfortunately, my next bout was against Anna Van Brummen, who beat me 15-12 and went on to win first place. I wound up in 27th.

Finally able to lunge again!

My coach giving me advice during a break

The next day, we watched and rooted for Emma, who was competing in Cadet foil. I also spent quite a while observing Div. 1 women’s épée, hoping to learn something.

Emma getting her weapon checked

The day after that was Senior women’s épée team event, with the relaxingly late check-in time of 6:30 AM. Even the Bout Committee wasn’t fully awake, and between semi-conscious officials and a droopy-eyed fencer, there were some very stupid but very entertaining dialogues concerning registration.

The actual fencing was a blast. We were seeded 24th out of 27 teams, and faced the Windy City team from Chicago (seeded 9th) in the round of 32. They blew us away 45-23, but we learned plenty and had lots of fun.

The Windy City team (photo stolen off Facebook). Left to right: Radanovich, Garina, Vinikov and Speta

A little bit later that day, we had another fencer from Salem competing in Y14 men’s épée. This was Adam’s first national tournament, and he fenced hard!

Adam presenting his épée for inspection

The day after that, I competed in Junior. I was crazy about getting national points, and since I hadn’t had the chance to pick up that many in Cadet, I thought of Junior as my last chance this week.

So when I lost 4 of my 6 pool bouts, I felt I was done for.

When I looked at the DE bracket and saw that I was matched up against Jessica O’Neill-Lyublinsky, who was #1 on Cadet point standings, I REALLY thought I was done for. My goal was to give her as much trouble as I could possibly deal out. I told myself over and over again that “no one is invincible” and told my coach that “it’s time for an upset.” In the end, I beat her 12-7. That was one heck of a tough bout.

Me vs. O'Neill-Lyublinsky

Unfortunately, my next DE bout was with Francesca Bassa, who had been seeded 6th coming out of pools. I lost 15-7, finishing in 60th place. I didn’t mourn my loss of national points. I just crowed about how much fun that was. And it was!

Me fencing Bassa (and getting hit on the toe)

The next day, July 9, was Div. 1A women’s épée. It’s different from Div. 1 in that you don’t have to be on the national Div. 1 points list to compete, but you do have to qualify (there are several ways to do this, I got in by placing in the top 10% at a Regional Open Circuit).

Since there are no national points awarded for any placing in Div. 1A, I felt much less pressure than I had in Cadet and Junior, and I fenced my heart out. After 4 tough DE bouts, I was eventually beaten by Natalie Vie, who went on to win 1st place. I tied for 3rd with Amanda Sirico. That was definitely an awesome day.

I'm the one in whites.

The next day, my coach, Michael Heggen, fenced Veteran-40 men’s épée. I gave him a warm-up lesson and sent him off to go “pick fights” before his event started. The role reversal felt utterly bizarre.

Watching Veteran fencers is a completely different experience from watching Juniors and Cadets. There’s a lot more craftiness, better sportsmanship, and fewer lunges. I learned some very interesting things from coaching Mr. Heggen against these people.

Mr. Heggen about to salute

Another fencer from our club, Jerry, fenced in V-50 men’s épée. This age group is very tough, since some of these fencers compete at Veteran World Championships, but Jerry held his own and finished with a smile on his face.

Jerry on the left

Later that day, my mom fenced Div. 3 (D and under) women’s épée. She competed hard and had a great time!

My mom!

The next day, Mr. Heggen fenced V-40 foil. That was an interesting day, to say the least. Having no experience in electrical foil whatsoever, and a profound dislike of the modern interpretation of right-of-way, I can’t exactly say I was the most effective coach. Hanging around a foil event and trying to watch carefully was an alien experience, but it was quite interesting. Those were some FAST 40+ year olds.

Mr. Heggen fencing foil

A little later, Mr. Heggen and Jerry competed in Veteran men’s team épée, having banded together with two guys from Northwest Fencing Center to form a team. That was definitely an event worth watching. Team fencing has always been my weakness, and I learned a lot by observing.

No, that is not a one-legged fencer.

Finally, we all had a day off, with no one from SCF participating in any events… and we went back to the convention center anyway. My mom and I wanted to take the referee test for épée, and Mr. Heggen (who had passed the épée test last year) wanted to test for foil.

Sitting in the referee area, in the shadow of the high-and-mighty Bout Committee platform, is a depressing experience. The refs all seemed glum and dejected (and possibly sleep deprived). I don’t really blame them – reffing at a national event doesn’t seem like the most enjoyable job in the world. It could be worse, I suppose. At any length, I passed the test.

After watching a bit of the Veteran Women’s Epée Team event, the three of us ran off to the Georgia Aquarium.


One heck of a fish tank!

I swear it's not what it looks like.

Whale shark!!

On our final day at Nationals, my mom fenced V-40 women’s épée. It was very surreal, seeing the enormous and normally deafening, overcrowded, chaotically messy room half empty, with several of the strips having disappeared overnight. But the fencing was far from half-hearted. My mom fenced very well and placed 15th. Go Mom!

My mom saluting before her bout

We watched the last bout of the last event of the last day (V-50 women’s épée), said goodbye to the inflatable cow, and left. What a vacation.

On the trip home, Mr. Heggen persuaded me to take a week off from fencing. At the moment, I was convinced, but for me, taking a break is easier said than done – I stayed away from my épées for a total of three days before giving in, coming back to the salle, and fencing for my normal 4 hours. That was five days ago. And now… it’s time for another tournament!! YAY!!!

At least it’s good for me….

Posted in Poetry (of sorts) with tags , , , on July 2, 2010 by Isabel Ford

Nationals draws ever closer
But I have to fence in a chair
It’s better than being a poser
Or constantly flicking the air

My partner leans forward, attacking
I’m too tired to parry or beat
Reduced to weak, half-hearted whacking
And parrying now with my feet!