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Fencing: Hurley sets sights on national excellence

Matt Robison | Wednesday, November 17, 2010

When sophomore Courtney Hurley came to Notre Dame, she was an enthusiastic young fencer looking to find her way in the sport. Slightly more than a year later, she is an internationally competitive athlete with her sights set on becoming one of the best in the world.

Irish coach Janusz Bednarski has watched her develop over the last year and a half, and has noticed marked improvements in both her tactical approach and maturity as a fencer.

“She’s getting more and more mature,” Bednarski said. “She’s controlling her performance the whole day and it helps her.”

Because fencing competitions can last up to six or seven hours, Hurley must be able to sustain her performance throughout the day by relaxing between bouts, not expending too much energy in celebration of a victory, and saving energy on weaker opponents.

“Winning the bout is not the primary goal,” Bednarski said. “The primary goal is to win the competition. She’s starting to learn. You have to be a very smart and very self-controlled person to know what needs to be done to win the tournament.”

Bednarski noted the many challenges that come with being a student athlete while training to keep up with the rapidly developing sport of fencing.

“She needs to follow up with the technical nuances that her opponents are bringing from the work with their coaches,” Bednarski said. “It’s time-consuming, but she has to find the time for this. It’s not easy with studies, but that’s how she has to improve.”

Even as a young competitor, Hurley has accomplished a great deal in the sport. At one point, she was ranked as the No. 2 junior fencer in the world. As a freshman last season, she went 50-5 in the regular season on her way to first-team All-American honors in the NCAA Championships. She fell in the semifinals of the national tournament a year ago, but she should compete for a title this season.

This year at the FIE World Championships in Paris, Hurley finished 61st out of 136 competitors. At the event, it was announced that Hurley won the 2009-10 World Cup Trophy as the best junior epee competitor. According to Bednarski, Hurley can use the international competition as motivation to be in a continual process of improvement.

“The whole world is challenging her,” Bednarski said.

Hurley’s sister Kelly was a fencer at Notre Dame as well and also competed in the World Championships.