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Ohio State competes in NCAA fencing championships

The French Field House and St. John Arena rung with the clatter of blades as the 2014 NCAA Fencing Championships took place at Ohio State.

Twenty-five universities were represented at the championship, including colleges from the Big Ten, Pac-12 and Ivy League. The women’s competition was held Thursday and Friday, with the men competing Saturday and Sunday.

OSU qualified the maximum of 12 fencers for the event (six women and six men), with Penn State and Princeton as the only other schools to do the same.

One Buckeye fencer, freshman Alanna Goldie, fought her way to the women’s semifinals in foil fencing but fell to reigning U.S. champion sophomore Lee Kiefer of Notre Dame, who proceeded to win the competition.

“It’s easier because I have such good support but it’s still difficult,” Goldie said about the loss to Kiefer.

Kiefer was on the U.S. fencing team for the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, where she placed fifth overall in women’s foil.

Kiefer said that she brought a similar attitude in competing in the NCAA championship as she did to the Olympics.

“You want to do just as well at both of them,” she said.

Kiefer was not the only fencer present over the weekend with experience in the Olympic Games. Alex Massialas, foil fencer from Stanford, also competed in London in 2012, finishing fourth with the team.

“It’s really quite an experience and it’s really quite humbling to go from these big tournaments to the NCAA,” Massialas said.

The championship featured 24 fencers for both the men’s and women’s competitions in each of the three sword categories: foil, épée and sabre.

In foil fencing, points are scored by a jab to the torso or back and foil swords used in competition have a maximum mass of 500 grams, according to the Federation of International Fencing website.

With all fencing swords, striking the opponent properly completes a circuit with a wire that runs from the fencer’s uniform to the scoreboard. The scoreboard then lights up to show which fencer received the point.

“Time gets into things like thousandths of seconds, people’s visuals aren’t that good,” Ted Lee, head armorer at the event said. Lee’s job as the armorer is to keep the swords and circuits running.

In sabre, points are scored by a slash or a jab anywhere above the waist, excluding the hands.

In épée, points are scored by a jab anywhere on the body.

“In fencing you have to work on one event if you want to be successful,” Massialas said, also adding that different types of fencing are like different strokes in swimming, but in fencing there is more specialization.

Goldie was the only female OSU fencer to make the semifinals. In foil, junior Mona Shaito placed fifth. In épée, senior Caroline Piasecka placed 11th and freshman Eugenia Falqui finished 22nd. In women’s sabre, junior Celina Merza placed ninth out of 24 and freshman Alexa Antipas placed sixth.

“We are not great, but we are OK,” OSU coach Vladimir Nazlymov said.

Nazlymov said this is a period of adaptation for the OSU fencing team, as 20 of the 43 Buckeyes are freshman.

“From 2004 to now, every season we fight for win.” Nazlymov’s career in fencing began in the Soviet Union for which he fenced in every summer Olympic Games from 1968 to 1980, winning two silver and a bronze medals.

The OSU fencing team won the NCAA championship with the highest number of points in 2012, 2008 and 2004. In fencing tournaments, each team gets a point with a victory from one of its players. The fencers at the 2014 NCAA tournament each had 23 bouts, facing every fencer in their category of men’s or women’s foil sabre or épée, one time. The top four fencers in each category advanced to the semifinals to fence for the individual national championship.

No male fencers on the Buckeyes made it to the semifinals in their respective event. In sabre, freshman Fares Arfa came in ninth place out of 24 and senior Rhys Douglas came in 17th place.

For men’s foil, OSU senior Zain Shaito came in sixth place out of 24 and junior Chris Colley came in 15th place.

OSU senior Kristian Boyadzhiev came in fifth place out of 24 in épée and freshman Iñaki de Guzman made 22nd place in the same event.

At the end of the say, the Buckeyes were undeterred from coming back to fight again.

“Just continue with it and work hard,” Goldie said.

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