A young Mid-South Cadet traveled abroad with her coach to Godollo, Hungary for her first international event in her fencing career and Team USA ended up carrying home a trophy with silver international bling around their necks. This is a brief introspective account of the young Cadet’s adventure, meet Joey Lew….
In the two days leading up to the trip I’d come down with a 102 degree fever, chills, aches, congestion, and a sore throat. My parents were unsure about letting me go and in a way I was unsure about going.
I know that it is safety first, and I’ve always known that…haven’t always executed that, but I’ve always known that. I didn’t want to go only to end up in a Hungarian hospital. But at the same time I’d looked forward to the trip for months: my chance to test myself in the big leagues and reach the goal I’d always had. I’d never been to Hungary and I’d never represented the U.S. and I couldn’t give up the opportunity, and thirteen hours and a significant amount of coughing (by both Jen and I, ’tis the season) we arrived in Hungary. Something has to be pointed out here before I focus into the fencing—Jen took incredible care of me. Regardless of her cold she put my wishes first, was extremely considerate, and coached me to my knowledge extremely well. I—and probably you if you’re reading this—am very lucky to have her as a coach. Now—the fencing.
It’s not surprising to me now that wars begin so easily. When countries are pushed against each other even in sport there is intense loyalty to your country and fierce enmity toward your opponent. There is no disliking or liking, simply the sense of representing something larger and fighting for it. I thought we were an extremely cohesive team (Sophie Keehan, Anastasia Pineschi and myself) and all coming from very different backgrounds with very different skill sets we confused the heck out of all of the carbon copies we ran up against. Though some of the girls were clearly better than others, stylistically they all were the same. It was often more about adjusting to the referee than about adjusting to the opponent. Ah—and you think it’s bad to argue with a referee in English—I observed some arguments, if the ref doesn’t speak your language, don’t even try. The day was great for us, I fenced my best bouts in the final but throughout the day I was able to awaken that sense of “you can see” (the infamous Jen-chant) that I’d felt at Nationals previous. When you feel the open eyes you can play the game, and that is incredibly fun. That team event is probably the most fun I’ve ever had in fencing. The most important thing I learned from the event is that how we’re learning to fence—how Mid-south fencers are being taught—it isn’t common. These techniques can take us a very long way and a thinking fencer is worth so much more than a robot. I am not saying that they were all robots, only that ‘trust your coaches’ is a well-earned aphorism in the world of fencing.
In my individual event I woke up for the first pool, and was able to unlock that calm confidence that I need to fence well. In the second pool, I was extremely nervous and blew my first two bouts on rushing and a big arm—two things that will always be work for me. My results goal in coming to this tournament was to make it through pools. I didn’t make it by one point. My ref was pulled after the pool, and may have reversed a few of my bouts, yada yada excuse excuse, truth is I should have gotten myself together and really fenced, and I still need to learn how to do that in a stressful setting.
Overall, it was strongly worth the experience, and the feeling of being part of something larger, and of representing the U.S. is much more overwhelming and enjoyable than I thought it would be, as is the team solidarity. I’m disappointed that I couldn’t step up on day two, but sometimes you have to lose and pick yourself up a few times to get stronger. As Jen pointed out, “You need to try everything one or two times before you get it right, you know, tournaments, businesses, boyfriends…” I’ll start with fencing.