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Pony Versus The Olympic-Class Fencer

I am so pumped right now. We had a special guest speaker at the fencing club tonight. He was a representative of the U.S. Army's World Class Athlete Program. This is a program that takes soldiers who enter the Army being good at a sport and trains them for national and Olympic competition. This guy fenced épée and competed in the modern pentathlon -- he's ranked Number Two in the country in pentathlon, in fact. He's as good as it gets in this country, and he fences my weapon.

He gave a little spiel about the Army (to a club at a school which regularly pickets the local Army recruiting post), then we did footwork, and then the fun began. The Army guys set up their top-of-the-line electric strip, the Army World Class Athlete hooked up, the club gathered round, Coach Mike smiled, and said, "Okay, who wants to be the first to fence him?"

I'm not shy. I stepped right up and plugged in Andúril (my épée), feeling vaguely suicidal. I'm just a little Pony, and this guy is a six-foot potential Olympian. I decided that my goal for that bout would be to score one touch, just so I wouldn't have the humiliation of being whupped 5 - 0. One touch, that was all I asked. Amazingly enough, Andúril's wiring still worked, and we were good to go. Mike was operating the box, and twenty fencers watched us.

Army Guy was tall, and he was sneaky, and he was fast. He scored four touches in the blink of an eye. Two of them I didn't even feel, he was that good. I was down 4 - 0. Then I scored my touch, the one touch I wanted. And then I scored another. And then I scored another. Three good clean touches in a row, boom boom boom, off the Olympic Army Guy. Then he scored, and the bout was over. He won, 5 - 3. But I scored three points off a U.S. Army World Class Athlete! And in front of an audience, too. I felt like a million bucks.

He stayed for the rest of practice, and I got to fence a little more with him, informally. Fencing someone who's that good is an amazing experience, and I learned more from it than I've learned in a single day in a long time.


( 22 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 21st, 2005 04:51 am (UTC)
Perhaps you have potential as an Olympic Pony.

You might get head-hunted for the Army's Ethnomusicologist Olympic Fencer program. And be made an offer you'd rather picket.
Oct. 21st, 2005 12:35 pm (UTC)
I doubt that I'd ever be an Olympic Pony -- Beijing is just not in my cards -- but it's nice to know that I can compete against the guys who are good enough to think about Beijing.

For a few months when I was seventeen, the Air Force was sending me several fliers per week. Mom Pony and I laughed heartily at the image of me joining the military and wreaking havoc there. But Army Guy did ask me what I did. When I told him "ethnomusicologist," he looked both puzzled and fascinated (which is pretty much par for the course) and mumbled something about having to see if the Army needed ethnomusicologists. I told him I was twenty-nine and that the odds of a study of the sociological role of women cantors in Reform Judaism having any international strategic value whatsoever were vanishingly small, and wouldn't he like to just fence dry instead.
Oct. 21st, 2005 12:48 pm (UTC)
Perhaps an Army that needed ethnomusicologists would the the Army of the future - when wars could be settled in a dance-off and debating the relative merits of the gamelan and the cor anglais were more important than the potential for nuclear weapons.

And Pony will be a five star General.
Oct. 21st, 2005 01:03 pm (UTC)
In that kind of Army, I might even rise from five star General to the one who takes over, forms a military dictatorship and ends up standing on a balcony in sunglasses and a silly hat, receiving the ovation of my adoring peasants.

Vive la revolution!
Oct. 21st, 2005 02:57 pm (UTC)
But beware - Madonna might make a movie of your life. With songs by Andrew Lloyd Webber.
Oct. 21st, 2005 03:52 pm (UTC)
Andrew Lloyd Webber? Call the brute squad! Ve military diktatorz have vays off dealing viz such pipple.
Oct. 21st, 2005 03:05 pm (UTC)
Actually, they'd be smart as hell to grab you up for intel.

My fencing teacher as a kid was an olympic gold medalist from the former Eastern bloc by the name of Tanya. (Do not recall the last name. She was about thirty five, forty, though, I'd say, back around 1980.) She was training some older kid who was scary good. I wish I recalled his name. lol. (The skating teacher was also former Eastern bloc, and bronze. Guess what her name was? Tanya...)

We had a great rec center program in my town. lol.

Anyway, I recall the army recruiter chasing me up and down the highschool halls, calling me by NAME...which I certainly hadn't given out. They got my SAT scores, and I think I'd taken half an asvab at some point. They wanted me in for the rest...

I was not military material. It would have been bad.

Oct. 21st, 2005 03:50 pm (UTC)
I was not military material. It would have been bad.

Same here, hence the laughter from Mom Pony at the repeated Air Force brochures.

However, a friend at another fencing club years later (an Army vet) opined that, if I had managed to buckle under to authority for the first two years of military service, I would have figured out the system and rocketed skyward in the ranks.

Of course, there is that whole "submitting to authority for the first two years" thing, so it might not have worked out after all. . .
Oct. 21st, 2005 04:52 am (UTC)

I'm sorry I missed it--I went to the Decemberists show tonight and the doors opened at 7, so I had to take care of other stuff beforehand.
Oct. 21st, 2005 12:36 pm (UTC)
He only really fences épée, so you might have been out of luck there anyway. But at least you would have seen him. How was the Decemberists show?
Oct. 21st, 2005 12:02 pm (UTC)
Excellent! You're so brave, Pony.
Oct. 21st, 2005 12:41 pm (UTC)
It was such an opportunity that I couldn't not step up and fence him. There are only four épée fencers in the club at the moment, and sometimes it gets old just seeing the same four faces unless I want to pick up a foil, and here was not just a new épéeist, but a world-class épéeist at that, and the chance to go on an electric box. I just couldn't miss that chance.
Oct. 21st, 2005 01:26 pm (UTC)
What a great experience! You are very brave, and how great to learn from someone like that. I greatly enjoy that you tagged him three times.

And I am all for using debate and dance to settle affairs of state :/
Oct. 21st, 2005 01:53 pm (UTC)
Coach Mike is right -- the best bouts you'll ever have are when you have your tush handed to you by someone who is the best in their class. It was such a rush fencing him that even losing felt good.

And I did hit him three times! Three clean, one-light touches, too. There's a lot of double touches in épée, but mine were single touches.
Oct. 21st, 2005 02:55 pm (UTC)
Neat! (Also, Andúril? *ded from giggles*)
Oct. 21st, 2005 03:46 pm (UTC)
Yes. Andúril. Andúril lives in a fencing bag with two foils, named Glamdring and Sting. Narsil's blade was broken about eight months ago.

Excalibur is long gone, victim of tang torsion and an overenthusiastic opponent.
Oct. 21st, 2005 03:07 pm (UTC)
You did AWESOME. I've got to wonder, if you'd not gone in feeling like one touch would be a miracle, if you might not have beaten him. heh. Man, I'd still have loved to see that. That was a VERY respectable match.


Oct. 21st, 2005 03:48 pm (UTC)
've got to wonder, if you'd not gone in feeling like one touch would be a miracle, if you might not have beaten him.

Given that, in addition to being Olympic-calibur, he was eight inches taller than me in a game where height matters, I think that I might have ended up losing 5- 4. On the other hand, we would have gotten to La Belle Touche, which is a lovely moment for any fencer.

But as it was, I was indeed pleased with the results.
Oct. 21st, 2005 08:12 pm (UTC)
Yay! go you! fencing the army, who would have guessed that Anduril would be sparring with the US Army! congratulations, such an experience!
Oct. 21st, 2005 08:42 pm (UTC)
Ooo, that'll be the title of my autobiography: French Pony: Fencing The Army.

I did row against the Coast Guard in high school, but it was a Head race, so we weren't really in direct competition. Not at all like staring down an infantryman with a weapon in hand.
Oct. 22nd, 2005 11:13 pm (UTC)
That sounds so cool FP! I am so jealous. I do not fence, but I would love to have seen it. And you did sooo well! That is the type of thing I would be pumped about for days!
Oct. 23rd, 2005 01:29 am (UTC)
I would love for you to have seen it. It was beautiful. And the best part was that he fenced all us épéeists again after we turned the strip over to the foilists. So I got to go up against him again, and I learned a lot from that experience. He gave me a new way to think about my épée parries, which is useful.

And he brought with him a DVD that had the raw NBC footage of men's and women's pentathlon and men's épée from the last Olympics. He said he'd put one sport on a loop so we could watch it, and which would we like? Since no one spoke up, I voted for women's pentathlon. I took a break and went to watch the video during the riding portion. So I got to fence the Army guy, watch women's sports, and see pretty horses all in one night. Life does not get much better than that.
( 22 comments — Leave a comment )