First tournament of the 2013-2014 Season: Asquith Open

Image(Pools 2013 Asquith)

This past Sunday, (September 29th, 2013) was the first provincial tournament of the 2013-2014 fencing season. This particular tournament is called the Asquith Open and is held in Delisle, Saskatchewan. This tournament is a very important one to me. It gives me a chance to get back into my pre-tournament routines and to shake off the cobwebs from the off-season. I have worked so hard this off-season and I was really eager to see how much of a difference all of my training was going to make. I was determined to impose my game and start this season strong.

Saturday night (the night before my event) I followed my usual ritual of cleaning my weapons and making sure they pass the epee tests. I have my fiance check the weapons to see how smooth the tip compresses. I am convinced she can’t tell the difference, but the ‘oos’ and ‘awes’ give me confidence. My cat Tuna likes to help out by making sure I keep track of all the little parts. If I’m not paying attention, she will hit them until they are hiding under the couch. After making sure my weapons work, I sat down with Carson to devour my pre-tournament food of choice. Pizza! I try to emulate the tournaments in Europe, so one food I can count on always being able to find is pizza. After demolishing my delicious deep-dish, I moved on to the next step in my routine; a walk! Carson and I hopped in the car and drove downtown where we grabbed some tea and enjoyed a nice long relaxing walk. For me, the walk is a chance to stretch my legs and get my mind focused on competing. Carson is always very helpful to me before a competition. She knows which questions to ask to keep me on track and she knows what to say to pump me up. I felt ready to win.

Game day:

I drove out to Delisle with my parents and my little sister. It had been a while since they saw me fence so I was eager to show them why I spend every waking hour dedicated to this sport. My little sister hadn’t seen me fence in about 4 years, I knew she would see a big difference!

I did my usual warm up and became centered and driven to win Gold. I finished ranked first after pools which usually sets me up for the easiest path to the finals, however that wouldn’t be the case. My first elimination match I had to fence Tristan Gratton from Asquith, he is a tall, lanky fencer who closes distance very fast and is fearless. I was able to utilize my quickness and balance to stay just out of his reach and hit his hand over and over. I won that match with a decisive score of 15-3. I wasn’t sure how the match would go before it began, but after the finish I felt very confident in my fencing. My next opponent was Justin Neumeyer, one of my top training partners. He is always dangerous and you never know what game he is going to bring to the table. He is consistent and explosive which makes for a difficult combination to overcome. Justin started off with a 4-2 lead before I was able to get comfortable with his timing. I pulled ahead to a score of 11-5 and I knew that the match was well within my grasp. I was looking to slow down his tempo and score double hits to victory. I finished Justin with a final score of 15-10.

The Finals:

The final match of the tournament I was pretty disappointed with. I wasn’t happy with the fencing I brought for the first period. I was reactionary, static and clueless. My opponent was William Brooke, another one of my top training partners. He is a very well-rounded fencer with an excellent sense of distance and timing. His biggest strength is his calm hand and defensive actions. We always have close matches.

William took an early lead and after the score see-sawed back and forth we finished the first period at 13-11 in William’s favor. I took the minute break at the end of the period to focus and come up with a game plan. I realized that I wasn’t fencing to win, I was fencing to get whatever result was going to be given to me. I didn’t have the killer instinct needed to win and I wasn’t planning out my actions. At the end of the minute break I was focused and ready to claim victory.

Immediately off the start of the second period I took control of the rhythm and I knew that I just had to set up my actions and everything would work out. I scored quickly into the second period to draw within one point of William (13-12). I knew he wasn’t going to give me the match easily so I spent a little time trying to tire him out and get full control again before launching another attack. When I felt the time was ready, I went for the action, but to my dismay William had hit me as well. Double touch; 14-13 for William. I was in a situation that required absolute precision without allowing my opponent to initiate any actions. I was nervous, but I used it to my advantage. I pressed forward and when I felt like I was just a bit too close, I made a quick body feint and retreated in hopes that William would follow. Fortunately for me, William followed me and I was able to flick his wrist. The score was tied at 14-14! I felt that I would be able to score that same touch again if I could get William to commit. I tried to set it up again, but I quickly found out that he was wary of the same result. I pushed William further back on the piste and when I saw that he had stopped moving I unleashed the fastest fleche attack I could. I felt my tip connect with his shoulder and I was sure I had won! I turned to look at the scoreboard and realized William’s light was on as well as mine. At 14-14 double touches don’t count, the winner has to score a single touch. Tension was high and I could feel the energy from the crowd. I wasn’t going to lose this match. I felt it and I knew that if I just believed in my game I would be able to finish this match in my favor. I was looking to score with another flick to William’s wrist. I did the same set up as my 14th hit and when I did my body feint I could tell William wanted to score the touch just as bad as I did. He came forward with his arm extended, and I was able to pick him off to score the winning touch! I was very happy with the finish of the match. I felt that William fenced exceptionally well and he was able to take advantage of my mindlessness at the beginning of the bout.

I received my gold medal and walked up to my sister and placed it around her neck. I was ecstatic that she would take the time to come and cheer me on, so I wanted to give something back to her. It means the world to me that my friends, family and fans support me through this journey of mine.

Next stop: Sherbrooke, Oct. 19th.    Let’s see if I can keep this Gold medal streak alive!!!


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2 Responses to First tournament of the 2013-2014 Season: Asquith Open

  1. Seanna Guillemin says:

    Your words mean so much to me Leland! I am so impressed at not only how far you have come to reaching your Olympic goal but how strong you are in dedication and love for what you do. You are truly inspirational to watch and am excited to see more in the near future. Also, mom just called you a genius. Just sayin.. ❤ -Your very proud little sister.

  2. Steph says:

    Congrats! I like that you’re trying to keep a pre-competition routine, but not sure if demolishing a pizza is necessary 🙂

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