It may not seem like such a surprise that the majority of the fencing team is from the Northeast.
The region is the lifeblood of both Penn fencing and the school’s student body, as fencing has historically been most popular in the Northeast.
More specifically, many Penn fencers hail from New York and New Jersey.
Eight out of 14 female fencers and 10 out of the 21 men are from New York or New Jersey. Only three members of the women’s team are not from the Northeast, and similar statistics can be found on the men’s side. The six men who are not from this region hail from California, Texas and Florida.
Of the Northeasterners, many come from the Fencing Academy of South Jersey, coach Andy Ma’s club.
“Fencing has its most popular part in the northeast … the East Coast is more popular than the West Coast,” Ma said.
Most local fencing clubs are older and not many new ones are popping up elsewhere.
“New Jersey and New York are very strong with regard to the caliber of fencers,” senior William Goldhirsch said.
What this doesn’t explain, though, is how these individuals got into this ancient sport. Each fencer has his or her own story, and they certainly vary.
Goldhirsch came from Ma’s club. An Olympics video game on the Nintendo at his grandparents’ house sparked his interest in fencing, motivating him to take up the sport.
“I’m from Princeton Junction, and of course Princeton has fencing,” Goldhirsch said. “After a while, I went to Mr. Ma’s club and then started competing at a more national level … it’s high-level stuff.”
Sophomore foilist Luona Wang has quite a different tale. Wang, the daughter of an Olympic fencer and Olympic fencing referee, has fencing in her blood.
“My parents were the national coaches in China,” Wang said. “So I think it was in me to at least try it.”
Though originally from Alabama, she didn’t come into the program alone. Junior Wendy Zhao had trained under Wang’s parents and has known Wang for years.
A good portion of the fencers come in already knowing a fair amount of their teammates.
“It’s a very small world, fencing. Once you get [to] a level, you kind of know everyone,” Goldhirsch said.
These circumstances have helped the team grow closer and stronger.
“It’s really good for the team,” Wang said. “Everyone knowing each other allows us to take that energy onto the strip.”
“[We are all] gold-medal champion athletic winners,” Goldhirsch said. “Or at least that’s what we strive to be.”
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