I left for Paris on May 1st 2013. I had qualified to compete in the Paris World Cup and the Bern Grand Prix tournaments. Paris was scheduled for the 3rd and 4th of May, while Bern was slated for May 11th and 12th. After a bit of deliberation, we decided in order to get the most bang for our buck we had to depart from Saskatoon on the 1st of May, compete at the World Cup, do a training camp in Paris with Danielle Levavasseur and then take a train to Switzerland to compete at the Grand Prix held in Bern before finally coming home. This trip would be the longest trip I’ve had to make so far. I would be away from home for 14 days.
Leading up to the tournaments I had trained harder than ever before and I was feeling quite confident. I knew these two tournaments would be the hardest ones I’ve ever done and I was very eager to put my skills up against the best in the world. My only expectation was to do my best and be present. That way I would be able to learn from whatever I do well or where I went wrong.
In Paris, I had a difficult pool with everyone other than me having years of world class experience. Two of the notables in my pool were Alex Lahtinen from Finland and my fencing hero Matteo Tagliariol from Italy. I was excited to fence Matteo. I didn’t like my chances in beating him but I was ready to do my best. My first match in the pools I was a little too excited to be fencing with the best, but I was able to get my nerves under control and win the match 5-3. I had a bit of confidence going into my match with Lahtinen. I knew he was fast, but I didn’t really understand how fast he was until we fenced. He picked me apart pretty easily and I was left barely holding onto my fencing whites! He was so quick that he may have tied my shoes together in between one of his actions as I felt like I couldn’t move the way I needed to! I needed to regroup because against Lahtinen a lot of my bad habits came up and I no longer felt like I was fencing my game. I felt like I wasn’t present and I wasn’t able to react appropriately. Not a good mindset to have when you’re about to fence your hero. I quickly recalled the hours of studying I had down on Tagliariol and went over my game plan. I was looking to attack directly into him as he would start an action, I feel that is one of the only times he is vulnerable.
By the time we had started fencing I was confident about my game plan. Within a couple of seconds, Tagliariol had scored a nice touch to my wrist and I realized I was going to have to utilize my movement a lot better if I wanted to catch him when he attacked. We moved back and forth on the piste but I wasn’t able to control his movement. This was a very unfamiliar feeling to me. I felt no matter what I did, Tagliariol didn’t care and he would just do whatever he wanted. Within a few moments Tagliariol attacked and I launched into him, however Tagliariol was expecting me and he parried my blade away and scored before I could recover. With Tagliariol leading 2-0 I knew that he wasn’t going to commit to an action so I wouldn’t be able to play my game plan. I had to bring the action to him and play into his game. I didn’t like my chances of scoring against the 2008 Olympic Gold Medalist, but I wasn’t going to give up. I applied pressure trying to get Tagliariol to get off balance, but that moment never came. I set up an attack and when I felt confident I unleashed it, only to fall short by a foot which Tagliariol had no problem capitalizing on. I was running out of time in my match and I really had to put something together so I pressed forward but I was never able to get close enough to score a touch. Tagliariol was always one step out of distance. He won the bout 5-0. I shook his hand and felt disappointed in myself. I expected more, I wanted to take down the fencer I look up to, or at least challenge him.
I wasn’t the same for my next match and it was one I feel I should’ve won. I lost it and had two tough opponents left and I needed to win both matches to ensure I would make it out of pools. I felt like I was fencing better in my next match but it wasn’t enough to pull out a victory. I took a moment to remember my game and center myself for my last match. I needed to win it to even have a chance at advancing. Unfortunately for me my opponent was a fencer from France who has a wealth of international experience. I didn’t care who he was, he was in my way of achieving my goal. I took the battle to him and was able to use my attacks to slide past him 5-3. I finished my pool with 2 wins and 4 losses and pretty bad indicators. I didn’t think I had a chance of advancing to the next round. After waiting around for a couple hours for the other pools to finish I checked the results and found I was one of the first fencers to be cut from advancing. I wasn’t upset, I knew I didn’t fence as well as I could and I didn’t feel I deserved to advance. I knew right away what I needed to work on in the training camp to make sure I could advance in Bern.
After an exciting and very demanding training camp with Danielle Levavasseur and his fencers I was feeling back to my normal self and I was ready to take on the world. My goal again in this tournament was to advance out of pools. Every point counted and I had my mentality of crushing my opponents back and ready. My pool was pretty much the same difficulty as Paris, I had Geza Imre from Hungary (who actually didn’t show up the day of) a fencer who has been on the senior World scene almost as long as I’ve been alive. Nikita Glazkov, a Russian who won Cadet and Junior World Championships. I had a fencer from Australia, Austria, Belgium and the United States. The fencer from the USA, Alex Tsinis, I had actually fenced earlier in the year and lost 15-11 to him.
I won my first match pretty easily, and my confidence was very high. My second match was against Glazkov, and I was expecting it to be my most difficult match. The night before I had studied him and I knew he doesn’t like to attack high, he likes to utilize toe and leg touches to win his matches, so I had a pretty good idea of what to expect. I used my strength and speed to keep his blade away from my legs before going in for an attack. I still had a lot of difficulty with him but I was able to squeak out a win at 5-4. All I was looking for was one more win. I knew if I could get that last win I would achieve my goal of advancing to the second round. I mopped the floor with my next opponent, and the possibility of winning all my bouts came into my head. If I won all of them, I would advance straight past the second and third round and go right into the top 64 that is held on the 2nd day of the tournament. My next opponent was Alex Tsinis. We were very evenly matched and for every point he scored, I was able to answer. At 4-4 I had a good idea of what I needed to do to win and I wasn’t going to let him start an attack. I launched my attack but slightly missed my target, and with my point already past him he was able to score the winning touch. It was a good match and it could’ve gone either way, I wasn’t upset at it I was already focusing on my last match. My last opponent was having a rough day and I could tell his confidence was shaken. I knew I had to attack early to crush his hopes of winning. I scored two times within 30 seconds and then it was just a matter of waiting for him to make a mistake and run onto my tip! I finished my pool with 4 wins and 1 loss. This advanced me past the first round!! The next goal on my checklist was to make it past the second round and because I did so well in pools I earned a bye through the second round and went straight into the third round of elimination matches!
My opponent was a fencer from Israel with the last name of Freilich. He won Cadet World Championships a couple years ago and nobody came close that tournament to beating him. He was the decisive World Champion that year. I had watched him fence and I thought I had an idea of what I needed to do to beat him. I knew it would be hard but I thought it would be winnable.
I started off the match pretty good taking a 3-2 lead. We went to the period break and he came out a totally different fencer. I was present the whole match and I was making the correct changes I needed to, but nothing was working for me. I didn’t get frustrated, none of my bad habits came back, I was just simply beat. I say simply beat because after I had a 3-2 lead he went on a 13-1 streak and beat me 15-4. I felt useless against him, I couldn’t get close enough to him to score and I couldn’t get far enough away from him to stop him from scoring. He had his way with me and that ended my tournament.
I was really looking forward to making it into the top 64, an accomplishment by anybody at this level but it just wasn’t my day. I finished 72nd, and I am happy with it.
I have Nationals this upcoming weekend in Gatineau to put an end on my 2012-2013 fencing season. My goal is to win and I think I have the ability to do it!
Stay tuned as I will have another blog post after Nationals. I promise it will be much shorter.
Thank you for your support this year, I’m very blessed to have so many followers and fans!