Member of the United States Fencing Association
Member of the Virginia Division, USFA
Stars of the Sword
Fencing championship has had many standouts in past 25 years
Cate Grider | National Sports Journalism Center
Last Updated - Mar 3, 2014 09:01 EST
Winning an Olympic gold medal before your freshman year of college? Sounds like
something out of a Hollywood movie. Winning the first Olympic medal for your
country in last 100 years? Pure fantasy.
For Mariel Zagunis, this was her reality.
Zagunis, who attended Notre Dame 2004 through the spring of 2007, boasts an
award list worthy of its own website. Her achievements would include another
Olympic gold medal in 2008, a bronze medal in the team sabre competition in 2008,
NCAA champion in the sabre in 2006, three-time junior world champion (2001,
2004, 2005) and two-time senior world champion in 2009-10.
Zagunis is among the elite-level athletes to excel in the NCAA championships, which
celebrate a 25th edition this year. She largely dominated the fencing vernacular for
over a decade, and rightfully so, since bringing home the first fencing gold medal in
Before Zagunis there was Olga Kalinovskaya, who helped pave the way for the
younger generation of women who were drawn to fencing.
Kalinovskaya of Penn State would become the first woman to win four consecutive
NCAA titles from 1993-96. Kalinovskaya’s specialty was foil and she dominated her
Kalinovskaya has been called “a snot” by opposing players. A small price to pay for
a huge place in fencing history.
Since Kalinovskaya, no man or woman has been able to match her record, leaving
her spot in the record book safe. For now.
However, a few fencers have made a solid run at her place in history. Boaz Ellis of
Ohio State would win the title from 2004-06 while Slava Zingerman of Wayne State
would bring home the title in 2006-08 and come painfully close in 2009.
Each of these history-making fencers hailed from institutions with a rich history in
Since the NCAA began awarding titles in combined men’s and women’s fencing in
1990, Penn State has led all schools with 12 championships.
Penn State would be home to one of the best fencing coaches, Emmanuil Kaidanov,
for more than three decades. Coaching them to title after title. Kaidanov was also
known for having an eye for talent. He would recruit the best of the best for the
Penn State program, developing it into the national powerhouse it is today.
And when you are the best you tend to bring out the best in your opponent. And
one of Penn State’s stiffest opponents during the past 25 years has been Notre
The Fighting Irish have won the second most titles, bringing home four
championships in the last 20 years. In that two-decade span, Notre Dame has been
a runner up eight times, including six Penn State championship years. Smell a
The history of the fencing program at Notre Dame is just as great as that of Penn
State’s, even if it was by chance.
Pedro DeLandero, a Mexican native, attended Notre Dame and would find his way
back to Mexico and back again to Notre Dame. After returning to South Bend to be
a Spanish professor, DeLandero would be involved in a car accident.
The prescription? Rehabilitation. The treatment? Swimming.
DeLandero would have none of it and suggested fencing in the place of swimming.
And as the say, the rest is history.
Fencing would go on to become Notre Dame’s eighth varsity sport and the school
would develop one of the best fencing programs in the country.
Many fencers have gone on to coach, to be motivational speakers, or in the case of
Slava Zingerman, a Wayne State prodigy who almost caught up with Olga
Kalinovskaya’s four-time NCAA title record, you not only coach professionally but
you donate your time willingly.
Zingerman spends time with U.S. veterans helping them to stay active and healthy
by teaching them to fence. This is all a part of the Veterans on Guard! Fencing
program that is held at New York’s Fencing Club.
Leadership on and off the mat, or court, or field. This is the challenge for each
NCAA student-athlete, past and present. The rewards continue long after trophies
gather dust and winning seasons are a distant, pleasant memory.
Original source: http://www.ncaa.com/news/fencing/25th-fencing/2014-02-27/stars-sword
|Mariel Zagunis, right, was the national champion in Sabre in 2006.