The Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) asked me if I wanted to go at General Mills headquarters in Mississauga to run a demo during their BBQ. I had a blast showing fencing and dressing up sales and marketing agent already dressed up in dresses and shirts. They had a lot more fun fencing each other than they anticipated. It was very windy but we all had a great time there! Thank you COC for giving us the opportunity to share our love for fencing!
Second of 10 tournament into the Olympics qualification – I needed to up my game following my dismal results in Paris. If that experience has taught me anything, it is that every time I focus on the result, pressure is crushes me down and I can't deliver. I focused my energy on creating a situation in my head where I only had to survive through the day. No need for fancy actions, no need for overthinking, no need for moving like a maniac on the strip. Strict minimum to survive (in other words: win). My teammate Vincent Pelletier, who has a lot of experience on the circuit and saw me fence for my whole career, told me in the warm-up that I shouldn't move too much, like in Chile where I won Silver. My opinion on the situation plus his expertise confirmed my game plan.
The preliminary round went according to plan. I finished with three victories and three defeats. Of those six bouts, I had four overtime sudden death bouts. That means the score was tie at the end of the three minutes and the first one to score a point afterwards would win. I was still doing my "strict minimum" plan and it was working pretty well. I won three of those four bouts! I was able to perform under the pressure and I was still able to stay cool-headed and rational even though losing those bouts would have meant that my day would have been pretty much over. I was trying to survive the first round and I did it.
During the elimination, my first opponent was the American Jimmy Moody. I've seen Jimmy fencing for about a decade while doing tournaments in the States and in Cadet/Junior World Cups. He always was couple of notches over my game and every time we fenced, he crushed me. Earlier this season, I lost to him in a really close bout. It's proof of a major upgrade in my fencing to be able to have a fighting chance against a fencer like him. He has very fast footwork and probably the fastest hand in North America! It makes him a very dangerous fencer. I took the lead from the start and fought all bout long to keep it. At one point, it was 9-8 for me with a minute and a half to go at the last period. I scored 4 hits in a row giving me a big lead at the end. I thought that the job was done for a second and Jimmy, an experienced fencer, took that chance and scored also 4 hits in a row bringing the score back to 13-12 for me. I took everything that I had left to fight and scored the last 2 hits. That was another big step in my fencing. I proved to myself that I have everything to beat a faster and stronger fencer. The 15-12 victory gave me a ticket for the next bout. One more win to have access to the second day of the event.
My next opponent was the Israeli Grigori Beskin. I saw him fence recently in Paris where he beat my teammate Hugues Boisvert-Simard 15-8, so I knew he was a very strong fencer. Beskin is a very patient fencer with a strong technical background. I started the bout by taking the lead while he was figuring out my style. Then, he adapted his fencing to take the lead from me. He was pushing me in the end of my zone to launch his attacks. I stopped stepping back and started attacking into his preparation to take the lead back. After regulation time, the score was 9-9. I fenced in overtime for the fifth time that day and I felt pretty good about it. I was confident that I could do this. I prepared my final attack but he parried it at the last second and scored the winning touche for his 10-9 victory. It was over for me but I did not have any regrets because I gave everything that I had.
That was the last tournament for the qualification of World Championships and Pan Am Games this summer. I will be representing Canada at both events! This was one of the main goal of the season and I achieved it. I am pretty happy about the performance that I've done even though the result is a bit lower than I wanted. Losing by one hit and going home with a bitter taste is part of the sport. If I keep fencing like this at Worlds and Pan Am Games in two months, I know I won't have any regrets and I will be in the best position to perform at my maximum potential. I now have two months to prepare for them. Let the training continue!
Part of my job now is to promote fencing. It’s very easy for me since it’s basically talking about the awesome sport that I love to a group of kids that really just want to play with swords.
On May 13th, Marc-André LeBlanc (my friend and collegue) went to Yorkhill Elementary School to do a fencing demonstration at a multicultural event. The goal of the event was to talk a little bit about Pan Ams and present fencing to all the families present. There were about 300 people that night.
On Friday (May 15th), I had another demo at San Lorenzo Ruiz Catholic School. I went there in the morning to do 2 presentations of 45 minutes each to the whole school, from kindergarden to grade 8! During those 2 days of demos, every kid had their eyes wide open and a smile on their faces! I shared fencing with nearly a thousand people!
It felt amazing to present my love to those kids who were exited to learn about it.
Here is part of the feedback we received from the school board liaison after one of the demos:
“Finally, I just wanted to reiterate that you and Marc-Andre did a stupendous job last week. Your demo was thoroughly engaging for the kids and entertaining for the adults, which is very hard to achieve and you two accomplished both very easily. It appears that interacting with crowds and children seems to come naturally to you, and you improvised very well to adjust to the various audiences and time constraints. I've received nothing but rave reviews about the both of you and I hope this will contribute to your vision of opening up the sport of fencing to a new generation of fencers.”
The feeling that I had after both events was amazing. The “pay it forward” mentality is very satisfying but having feedback like this is positively overwhelming. These were the first demos I have done, and I will be doing many more again at every opportunity that comes up.
This was just the beginning.
In my quest to promote fencing, I also want to give a little something to the community. This is why I joined the Vango Toronto Fencing Association (non for profit organisation). Under this organisation, I run fencing demonstrations, in school for example, and promote fencing everywhere I can. I wanted to do a fundraising combining fencing promotion and helping the community. My idea was to give introduction classes and run small fencing related games to everyone that would come. Since I work at Vango, finding the facility for the event would be easy and cheap! While I was looking on the web for a cause or organisation, I remembered that SickKids Foundation saved the life of my mother and her sister when they were born! If it was not for SickKids, my mother (therefore me) wouldn’t be alive! I filled out the form on the SickKids' website and a couple of days later: I got approved and supported for the fundraising. So my plan was to organize a couple of games for the family, oriented on fitness, health and fencing, give fencing classes to everyone, make people fence, give prizes and oh yeah, raise money for SickKids Foundation! If you read this and would like to drop by to see what fencing is about or to donate a little pocket change for a great cause, please visit the Vango Games website: https://www.smore.com/pnqxk-vango-games. The event is Saturday June 20th for the whole family. Regular Classes will also be happening at the same time so that everyone that comes can have a look at real fencing classes! Come to Vango to do your part in helping kids in need!
For the first time that I can remember (and I would remember things like this), the Canadian Fencing Federation (CFF) found us a sponsor for fencing equipment! Absolute Fencing gear sponsored the national team by giving them (us!) a full set: mask, vest, sous-plastron, pants, gloves, body-wires, socks and a huge fencing bag writtenTEAM CANADA all over it! I always wanted a bag with Team Canada written on it to walk in a fencing tournament and represent Canada in all it’s brightness! They shipped all the equipement in Vancouver where were the National Championships. I didn’t go to Nationals because I had to work, I had 2 demos planned and I had training to do for the Grand Prix Rio that is much more heavy in the balance of the Pan Am Games and Olympics qualification than Nationals (which I would have loved to fence but I had to make sacrifices…again!). So I will be all nice and shinny for Worlds and Panams this year! My training partner Vanessa was in Vancouver for the tournament so she brought my bag full of new equipment with her when she came back. When she arrived home, I was like a six years old kid the morning of Christmas! The bag even had a strong smell. "The smell of new stuff!" I though. But when I opened my new bag, I saw that one of her nail polish bottle exploded in my bag. Not the smell (nor the look) of new stuff after all. Her weapons and my bag are now a bit pinker than they should be! After cleaning most of it, my bag and her weapons are now unique! Thank you Absolute Fencing and CFF. I will wear AF gear with pride!