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Ohio State fencers slash their way to the Olympics

Courtesy of the OSU Athletic Department

Zain Shaito, Mona Shaito and Margarita Tschomakova were all important members of the Ohio State fencing team who won the 2012 NCAA National Championship on March 25. Less than one month later, all three achieved another major feat by qualifying for the 2012 Olympic Games.
All three OSU athletes will compete individually in this summer’s Olympics in London.
Mona Shaito, a freshman, qualified by winning in women’s foil at the Asian and Oceanic Olympic Qualifiers in Wakayama, Japan, April 20. One day later, her brother Zain Shaito was victorious in men’s foil to earn his own Olympic berth. Zain Shaito, a sophomore, was also the 2012 NCAA individual champion in men’s foil. Mona and Zain Shaito were born and raised in the United States, but have dual citizenship and will represent Lebanon, which is located on the east coast of the Mediterranean Sea, in the Olympics.
“It’s like a dream come true for my family,” Mona Shaito said. “How many families have two people, especially siblings, making the Olympics together?”
Zain Shaito agreed.
“It meant everything,” he said. “It meant even more that I qualified with my sister. Our country is proud, our family is really proud. It’s a great feeling.”
Zain Shaito said he thinks their qualification is very significant to the people of Lebanon.
“I think it’s big because everyone will see that now we have something other than politics to talk about in the country of Lebanon,” Zain Shaito said. “This takes a big step towards encouraging the youth to try more sports.”
Zain Shaito said he and Mona plan to make a trip to Lebanon prior to the Olympics.
Yury Molchan, who competed for Russia and won a bronze medal in the men’s team foil competition at the 2004 Olympics, is OSU’s assistant coach. Molchan said he thinks both Shaitos could win medals in London.
“(Zain Shaito) can, because nobody knows him,” Molchan said. “Mona (Shaito) (has) the same chance, because nobody knows Mona.”
Molchan said he will advise the Shaitos that they must control their nerves in Olympic competition.
“That’s very important,” Molchan said. “Because everybody will be nervous in competition.”
Zain Shaito said he carried momentum from his NCAA National Championship victory into the Olympic qualifiers, and hopes to carry momentum from his qualifying victory to London.
“Any time you win a huge competition … that gives you the momentum to go into the next competition,” Zain Shaito said.
Mona Shaito said she has not set expectations for her Olympic performance.
“I just hope to give the other experienced fencers a good match, and do my best,” Mona Shaito said.
Tschomakova, a senior, was one of four to qualify in women’s sabre at the European Olympic Qualifiers in Bratislava, Slovakia, on April 22. Tschomakova has dual citizenship in Germany and Bulgaria, and will represent Bulgaria in the Olympics.
Tschomakova is following in the footsteps of her father, Georgi Tschomakova, who was a three-time Olympic competitor as a Bulgarian fencer.
Margarita Tschomakova said her father advised her to enjoy the moment.
“Qualifying for the Olympics is a dream come true,” Margarita Tschomakova said. “I think a place in the top eight would already be a great accomplishment. An Olympic medal would be another dream come true.”
The 2012 Olympic Games will open in London on July 27. Fencing competition will begin on July 28 and continue through Aug. 5.


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