Do you dream of representing your nation at the World Cup?
For Penn freshman fencer Raymond Chen, that dream became a reality on Oct. 10, when he represented the Red, White and Blue in the Junior World Cup.
The tournament took place in Leszno, Poland, and featured 161 of the best young fencers from across the globe. Entering the weekend, Chen was ranked fifth in the United States in the men’s foil, Chen’s weapon of choice.
Going into the competition, the Dallas native knew the opposition would not be easy to deal with, despite the absences of a couple larger nations.
“Countries like Italy and Hungary didn’t show up,” Chen said. “However, the level of competition was still challenging.”
Traveling to other countries to fence is nothing new to Chen — his schedule is full of competitions, many of which take place on foreign soil.
“I compete in national tournaments about once every month,” he said. “But I also compete in international tournaments about once every other month. It’s a very consistent schedule.”
The Junior World Cup began with pool play, which consisted of six matches against opponents from six different nations. Chen breezed through his pool, losing only once to finish with an initial 5-1 record. The strong pool performance was enough to earn the Quakers’ rookie a first-round bye in the knockout stage that followed.
The American’s next match took place in the round of 64 against French fencer Theo Sebban. After a convincing 15-8 triumph against Sebban, Chen squared off against fellow American William Upbin, a bout in which he once again came out victorious, 15-10, in a hard-fought match.
The match against Upbin was the closest Chen would come to losing until the semifinals, as he carried his undeniable momentum all the way to the penultimate match of the tournament by defeating several more American foes.
In the semifinal match, Chen went head-to-head against Frenchman Alexandre Ediri, a fencer who had displayed a mediocre performance in pool play but had heated up in the knockout rounds.
The match was one for the ages, with the result decided on the very last point of competition. Unfortunately for Chen, it was the French fencer who scored the deciding point, winning the match and advancing to the final.
All was not lost for Chen, however. Because his performance throughout the tournament had been so strong, the incoming freshman had done well enough to earn the bronze medal for third place, quite the accomplishment in a pool of 161.
Chen’s impressive run was the best performance by an American foil fencer at the Junior World Cup since 2012.
Following the remarkable performance, Chen was unquestionably pleased.
“It was a really great result,” Chen said. “I am really happy with it. I hope I can maintain this amount of success in upcoming competitions.”
The upcoming competitions of which Chen speaks are, of course, matches with Penn fencing. The Texan will look to carry his momentum from the Junior World Cup into his performances for the Red and Blue, noting that the recent tournament not only gave him a confidence boost, but also invaluable practice.
“I got to compete against some of the best fencers in the world and see some very different strategies and techniques,” Chen said. “Many of these fencers were as good if not better than the ones I will be facing collegiately.
“This event has made me a better fencer, and I can’t wait to show it in my matches this season.”
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