As I write this draft, I’m listening to the US Fencing call to decide if the US will host the world championships this year and if so, which city will host.
In fall quarter of 2010, the beginning of my third year, I was lucky enough to study abroad in Paris for ten weeks to complete UChicago’s required Civilizations sequence. I bought new FIE whites so I could compete and lugged all of my equipment across the Atlantic Ocean – I had no intention of missing any practice, let alone my Big Chance to train in the fencing capital of the world. I joined Paris Universitaire Club, which is located in Cite-Universitaire where loads of international students are housed.
While I was there I had the marvelous good fortune of discovering that the world championships were going to be held in Paris! So few Americans get to experience senior international competition – obviously only a few qualify to compete, and most don’t have the means to travel such a long way to be spectators.
So of course, I skipped as many classes as I could to make sure that I got to see everything. That year the venue was the Grand Palais near the Champs-Elysees… A beautiful Beaux-Arts structure built for the 1900 Universal Exposition. I got to meet the US Men’s epee team and Ro, the national WE coach. During the women’s épée final, the atmosphere in the stands was incredible: I remember Maureen Nisima’s flèches in the final made Emese Szasz look the fool, and that after Emese’s counterattacks had been so effective on her other opponents. The French crowd went wild for her every touch, displaying a lack of reserve that went against all national stereotypes.
It was an inspiration to me, and talking to Ro that week was the catalyst for me to make some big changes in my coaching and and training strategy. I want more US fencers to have that kind of a transformational experience in their own fencing, and I think bringing the world championships to our own country could be a great way to improve our access. Maybe most fencers won’t fly across the country to attend, but I think those who do (and bring video cameras?) will gain a lot from the experience. The Board has just voted to move forward with seeking bids and estimates. I’m glad to hear it.