The sounds of metal clanking, screams and cheers filled the hall at the Oregon Convention Center as young fencers, their coaches, family and friends gathered February 14-17 for the 2014 Junior Olympic Fencing Championships.
“This is a national championship for athletes at high school and college age,” says Christine Strong Simmons, director of operations for USA Fencing. “They have to qualify in order to come here. So it’s a very select elite group of athletes from across the United States … We have 1,800 athletes that are here and fencing through the 4-day competition.”
The Junior Olympics serves as the final selection tournament for nearly all of the athletes who will compete at the Junior and Cadet World Championships in Bulgaria in April.
“We have the highest quality fencers from all over the country competing, which is great because then you get a chance to not only fight hard and test your mettle but to learn … It’s just great to be around all of this super high-level fencing for the kids,” says Vince Camillo, a coach with Northwest Fencing Center in Beaverton.
Oregon’s fencing community has produced a number of Olympians and World Champions, including two-time Olympic Champion Mariel Zagunis; two-time Olympic medalist Becca Ward; and Olympians Seth Kelsey and Cody Mattern.
Will Wise, a 14-year-old junior fencer, won the 2013 USA Fencing National Championship in Division III Men’s Foil and trains at Northwest Fencing Center. He says he first saw fencing during the Olympics when he was 6 years old. After he tried it, he fell in love with the sport.
“I like the competitiveness and getting to travel all over the country for tournaments,” says Wise. His long-term goal is to compete in the Olympics and get into a good college with a fencing program.
On the third day of the championships, he competed in the Junior Team Men’s Foil.
“It was really hard, but it was fun. It’s always fun to compete with your teammates versus on your own. I think the whole team did really well,” Wise says.
More than 60 athletes from throughout Oregon competed at the Championships, and some of them took medals home. You can see the complete results from the competition at www.usfencingresults.com.