Day one of the tournament: 280 fencers, 38 poules. Only 64 spots for the real tournament Sunday where the tableau of 64 starts. Woke up early, had breakfast and took off for the venue. After my warm-up, I went to my strip relaxed but ready to fight. First news: one of the weakest guy in the pool did not show up. We were at this point only 6 in the poule and finishing in the first 16 of the 38 poules was at that point very difficult. Not only I had to win every bout but I would need a really good indicator (hit given minus hit received). I tried to focus on the job to do and just fence. The pressure was to a point that I had difficulties breathing when I was waiting my turn. My jacket felt like it was 20 kilos and my lungs were not able to get air in enough. Once on the strip, everything shuts down and only my opponent is taking my attention.
So after one victory, two victories, three victories and then my fourth victory, I thought: one tiny more five hit bout victory and I will get one step closer of my dream while putting a ton of pressure on the other Pan Americans in the race for an Olympic ticket. I won the bout 5-2. I had an indicator of +14 which is pretty good even with someone in a pool of seven.
Since I was in the second of three flight of poules, I went back to the apartment that we rented to eat, relax, take a shower and come back later. Depending of what to other guys in the third flight would do, I might have to fence 2 bouts in the afternoon or go directly in the top 64 Sunday. A little bit before the end of the third flight, I went back to the venue to prepare in case that +14 was not enough to go through. As I was slowly warming-up, I saw the final results of the first round: I finished 9th overall! I stopped warming-up and stayed in the gym to cheer my teammates who were still fencing. At this point, I was the only one from our zone without an Olympic ticket that was in 64s. I saw my friend but opponent Jason Pryor from USA win his first bout 15-7 then John Edison Rodriguez from Colombia win his first bout in overtime. They both had another bout to win to have access to the tableau of 64. I thought I would die of a heart attack if I stayed another round so I left for the apartment with my equipment.
After an hour of pressing F5 (refresh) like a maniac on my computer, I saw that Pryor (USA) won his second bout and was in the 64s of Sunday. But then I saw at some point that the Colombian did not win his bout and the only Pan American that were in the 64s were Ruben Limardo (Venezuela) who already qualified by team, Jason Pryor (USA) and myself. I was qualified as of this moment no matter what happened Sunday.
That precise moment when I realized that everything I've sacrificed and worked for actually happened was such a huge relief. The pressure and stress piled up every month since my silver medal in Pan Am Championships in Chile in April 2015 and everything disappeared instantly. I actually, on the spot, started to celebrate: I could because I was only fencing 2 days later. Even today I don't really realize what happened. My bet is that I will once I will land in Rio this summer.
After a night of quick celebration and a day off, I was fencing Silvio Fernandez from Venezuela in 64s. The bout started and he took a lead of a point from the start. I tied many times and he retook the lead every time. The scores were never more than a hit or two apart. I was in control of the bout until the very last minute where I could not catch up. I finally lost the bout 13-10 but I was satisfied of the bout anyway. And on the plus side, I could always get my revenge at the Olympics!