After World Championships in Russia and Pan Am Games in Toronto, I now take a good three weeks completely off training. The reasons are to recover, regenerate and also to have some perspective on the season I just had. It's when you step back a little bit that you can see the big picture, not when you are all focus on this or that particular aspect of your game. Those three weeks are also there to regenerate the thirst of fencing and training. With all the training and the travelling for tournaments, we get a bit tired of fencing after eleven months straight. I don't really like to stop training and stop fencing but it is very beneficial for every athlete so I am counting the minutes I “can” go back to training. I am also very satisfied of the season that I had. I started to win big bouts in world cups and during all season, I was actually giving the best of me instead of always under performing. I found the routine and the preparation I need to do to go into the zone where I am very comfortable and loose in my fencing. Can't wait to go back to training and start competing to secure my Olympic Team selection.
Major home Games are once in a lifetime opportunity for any athletes in the world. I prepared those Games as well as I could and felt great the morning of the tournament, considering that I just flew back from Russia a day and a half ago. Never in my career I had a crowd supporting me during tournaments. It was always in another country or province and the only people that were cheering were teammates and coaches. For the first time of my life, I had my girlfriend, my family, my colleagues, students from the club and a huge crowd that was behind me, supporting me. I was physically and mentally ready for the tournament and my opponents but I learned that morning that I was not ready for the crowd. I got overwhelmed by the support of everyone and I tried to fence (and win) not for me like I am used to but for them. At that point, I felt the biggest pressure I never felt before and started my day in the worst way possible losing my first bout, then my second, then my third and then my fourth. The pressure just got bigger after every lost and I had only one bout left and it was a do-or-die situation. I only had a chance to go to the next round if I win this last bout. During the first four bouts, I was fencing so tight and so nervous that the results were exactly like they were suppose to be: terrible. The pressure kind of disappeared for my last bout because I knew at that point I had nothing left to lose. This is the mentality, by the way, I had for my whole season: nothing to lose. So I ended up winning my bout 5-2 which was just just enough to access the next round. At that point, the pressure kicked in once again: I had to do good to compensate for the horrible start (I know; not the best mentality). This was not my smartest day of fencing but with everything that was happening, I felt I could not do anything about it.
When I saw the tableau, the little confidence I was able to build during the 30 minutes break received a huge uppercut. I had to fence for the third time in three tournaments Ruben Limardo from Venezuela that beat me 15-5 in 2013, 10-6 at 2015 Pan Am Championships and 13-4 at World Championships last week. He was having a great day and let's say that I had better ones. I used the little time I had to try to come up with a game plan and some confidence for the bout and actually created some. The bout ended up finishing 15-0 for him... It was the worst nightmare possible. I could hear the silence (from my family and friends in the crowd) after every single hit I received and it was painful. There was always someone that was cheering me trying to help me but it was literally like a nightmare, I could not control anything. To my defence, I prepared all my actions, changed from offensive to defensive, changed the target, change the rhythm, change weapon, etc. I tried everything that I could think of at that point but Ruben seamed to always be one move ahead. After answering questions from the journalist (some of them were actually very good even considering the situation I was into), I went back to the fencer's area and I could still not believe what just happened.
After couple of days of talking with other people, I had time to see the big picture and realized that those things happen in our sport and I am not the first, nor the last to live this. I just have to learn what I can from this experience/nightmare and let go of the rest. One thing is for sure now and I am glad that I realized that early in the Olympic qualification: I have to fence for me without nothing to lose because at the end, all of us, we fence because it's fun. I used to think that people that were saying: just have fun, the important is to participate, blah blah blah, were all wrong. Now I know, sadly from a very bad experience, that the important IS to have fun. If you aim for fun, victory will come. If you aim for victory (especially for the wrong reasons), it will not be fun. Now it's time to go out, enjoy the Games and support other Canadian athletes in all sports.
Congratulations to my teammate Hugues Boisvert-Simard who won the bronze medal that day!!!
It was my first senior World Championships that I was going to and the most important tournament for worldwide fencers that want to qualify for the Olympic Games. I had a good day at Pan Am Championships earlier this season, which was another very important tournament for the qualification, and I was hoping that I would have another good day. The day started very well in my pool winning the first two bouts 5-0 and 5-1, and then I lost my third bout in overtime. My plan was to win all bouts in my pool and have a pass to go in the main top64 direct elimination tableau the next day. I knew I had to win all my bouts to skip the long way to the top64 tableau and at this point I was trying to get a good indicator to have an easier path. I ended up winning another bout 5-1 but also losing another one in overtime. I had a pretty good indicator and was ranked 66th after pools. I fenced Alexandre Bouzaid from Senegal (ex-Frenchman) and won 15-14 while leading the whole bout. The score was very close but I felt I was in control from beginning to end. I had to fence Ruben Limardo from Venezuela afterwards to get in top64. I already fenced him earlier this season at PanAms and I knew it would be a tough bout. I mentally prepared to give a fight with all I had from start because Ruben is very dangerous when he takes the leading, even if it's one or two points. The 2012 Olympic Champion took the lead from the start and I couldn't do anything that would break him to have a chance to come back. I eventually lost 13-4 when I needed to run at while and pray for some magic to happen but he was ready for it and his lead got bigger and bigger while the time remaining got smaller and smaller. It was the end of the day for me but with a little bit of perspective, I am decently happy about the day I had. Ruben is probably the worst match in the world for me because we basically have the same style but he is stronger than me in every aspect. I finished 79th on 208 fencers and I had to focus on team event four days later.
We were fencing USA in team event in the top32 tableau and all of us (Leland Guillemin, Hugues Boisvert-Simard, Jean Lelion and myself) were very happy to see another opportunity for the USA-CAN rivalry. For both of our team, that match was very important for A)Make points for the Olympic qualification and B)Stop the other team from making some. The Americans did a lot of preparation for this match and we could feel the pressure they had. All of them looked ready but very stressed about that match including the coach. Normally, Hugues finishes the match and the American were well aware of that and made their plan accordingly. Earlier this season, I beat Jason Pryor twice, Jimmy Moody and also Yeisser Ramirez from their team and Victor Gantsevich (National team coach for Canada) decided that I should finish instead of Hugues. It was the first time for me in the world circuit that I would finish and it was in a very crucial moment for men's épée team. Strangely, I did not feel any pressure. Nobody expected that move, the American coach first, and it added more pressure on the USA team from the start. They did not expect this and their plan they worked really hard on was already shaky and the match didn't even started. We were leading from the start without giving once the lead to the Americans. They caught up at the end to go in overtime. Jimmy Moody and I, one hit, one minute, winner takes it all. I knew the person that would initiate the action in overtime would have a major advantage over the other and I had to start my action right from the beginning. After 8 seconds, I launched an attack where neither of us could land the winning touch. After another 9 seconds I launched an attack finishing to the foot, that I knew he was aware that I would try but I didn't really care at this point because the initiative itself was more important than the element of surprise at this point. Single light for Canada. We've done it. One team was done, and in trouble for Olympic selection, and one team had to focus on the next bout. I was very happy to be on the side that had to focus on the next step. We had a very good day afterwards: losing against Hungary (World Champions), winning against Kazakhstan (Asian Champions), winning against Poland (Silver medallists at the Olympics) and barely losing to the Czech Republic. We ended up 10th on a total of 38 countries and we were all very happy about that.
I am very happy about my first World Championships and I look forward to the next ones. Now I have to pack my bag because I am fencing at the Pan Am Games in Toronto in 2 days. Let's just hope I will have some sleep on the plane...