Collineau impresses in first year
Benjamin Padanilam | Wednesday, December 10, 2014
“He just continues to amaze us.”
These were the words Irish head coach Gia Kvaratskhelia used to describe freshman foilist Virgile Collineau following his second-place finish at the Penn State Garret Open just over two weeks ago.
Collineau has continually impressed the coaching staff this year, as he has made his transition to American-style fencing with relative ease. Having grown up in France, Virgile recognized that his craft would need to adapt to the American approach.
“It’s different from what I used to do in France, but I think now I’ve almost fully adapted,” Collineau said. “[Maybe] not fully, but I’m well adapted. I really like Gia’s way of doing things and way of coaching and giving lessons. I think in the U.S., [fencing] is more aggressive. Now here, I have really been trained in my decision making and in my aggressiveness, which are really a part of American fencing and different from the French way of doing things.”
Collineau, one of 12 competitors on France’s junior national team, had to face the decision when he expressed his desire to pursue both his academic studies and fencing career.
“I knew there weren’t a lot of choices if I wanted to keep on fencing and doing studies because in France it is kind of hard to do both,” Collineau said. “So my only alternative in France was to go to Paris to train at the senior national training center, which worked similarly to the junior national team. But I was not selected as one of the 12 for the team.”
It was at this point Collineau decided to look for opportunities outside of France. After much research, he said he narrowed it down to one program in particular: the University of Notre Dame.
Although he had never visited the school, Collineau said he decided Notre Dame was the best program for him to work on both his studies and his craft. He finally did make the trip to the U.S. — just two weeks before the start of classes.
“I didn’t know what to expect when I arrived,” Collineau said. “I was afraid. I arrived in August with one or two weeks to acclimate, but it was very nice. The coaches came to the airport to pick me up, so I was never on my own. They helped me to acclimate at the beginning. The classes are very different from what they were in France, but I didn’t really have trouble acclimating.”
One of the most important factors in his relatively easy transition was the family atmosphere that the fencing team provided, Collineau said.
“Concerning the fencing, it’s way different than when I was in France,” Collineau said. “I find it better for me because we are a very big team and everybody is very nice and friendly. In France, it was very competitive. Here, I feel like everybody is working together for the team. It’s less individual and more like a team spirit, and the coaches are really nice too.”
With the season now underway, Collineau’s performance continues to regularly improve, as he adapts to the American-style of fencing. Though his second place finish at the Penn State Open marks his best on the season, he said he did not believe that was his best overall best performance.
“I fenced pretty well, but it was not an outstanding performance,” Collineau said. “I made some mistakes, and I didn’t win the final bout which I should have won. I think what was nice was that I was very relaxed, and one of the things about me is that when I am relaxed, I fence much better than when I am tense. I think Penn State was a good way for me to show it.”
Going forward, Collineau said he believes he can continue to bring that mindset into his bouts with him. As a more relaxed foilist, he believes he can better contribute to both his personal goal for the end of the year, as well as help the team reach the NCAA Championships.
“From a personal point of view, I would like to do well in the competition back in France and qualify for the World Cup,” Collineau said. “I would also really like to do well in the upcoming NCAA event. I think we have a very good team this year, so I hope I will help the team to win the [NCAA] championship.”