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Fencing: Irish fencers travel for North American Cup

By Peter Steiner | Thursday, October 11, 2012

With the return of three Olympic fencers to an already strong roster, the Irish have high expectations for the upcoming season.

But before any collegiate competitions get underway, some of the Notre Dame fencing team will travel to St. Louis on Oct. 12 to compete in the North American Cup held by the US Fencing Association.

More than 2,000 athletes will compete in the individual tournament, which includes events for each of the three weapons – epee, foil and saber. The Irish fencers will compete in the Division I category in the event that serves as a qualifying event for future world championships.

“[The North American Cup] in St. Louis is not a collegiate event but a national team try-out organized by national governing body US Fencing Association,” Irish coach Janusz Bednarski said. “Several of our athletes are of course going because they will fight for national points to be on the national team for the World Championships, World Cups and future Olympic games.”

Of the current Irish fencers participating in this event, three competed in the London Olympic games this past summer. Junior Courtney Hurley, senior Gerek Meinhardt and freshman Lee Kiefer will each travel to St. Louis already having gained experience fencing on the world’s biggest stage.

The task for these three athletes, Kiefer in particular, is to use their experiences overseas to help them in the collegiate atmosphere, Bednarski said.

“Gerek Meinhardt and Courtney Hurley were already competing and both were national and state champions, so they know difficulties of collegiate fencing and the differences between the fencing in the Olympic games,” Bednarski said. “Lee Kiefer was the finalist of the Olympic games but she has to learn collegiate mysteries, collegiate secrets of the fight, but we think that they will do well.”

Although the addition of three Olympic fencers to the Irish squad elevates the program, other Olympic fencers will return to their respective schools and fencing teams as well, raising the level of competition across the board.

“The season will be very interesting because the number of the very strong teams is growing,” Bednarski said. “We have a lot of good fencers who are coming to the different teams including ours. The level of the fencing should rise up for the top teams and that is good and bad. Good that we will have more exciting matches and more teams who will be challenging us. The only bad thing is predicting such events is harder than in the past.”

While the Olympic fencers grab the headlines, the Irish roster also includes many strong fencers looking to make significant contributions this year. Bednarski said he believes these fencers will want to prove themselves after missing out on the Olympic team.

“We have several returning top fencers not from the Olympic games like [sophomore] Ariel DeSmet, who won national NCAA Championships in foil two years ago,” Bednarski said. “They are coming back without experience in London because they did not qualify. They simply did not make it, but they will be strong too. I believe they will be willing to show others how strong they are.”

Before the collegiate season begins in November, members of the Irish fencing team will travel to St. Louis to compete in the North American Cup this weekend.

Contact Peter Steiner at [email protected]