Chapter Two: Snatching Defeat

We were the best team in the league, hands down. Brhet, Nirav, and Alex helped lead the way, and I was doing decently on junior varsity (only five fencers were in the varsity lineup, even though we were all on the varsity team…everyone else was considered JV and fought the other team's JV players after the varsity competition was over with). At least, during practices I was doing decently. During competitions, I was losing right and left. I did win my first match of the season, but after that I lost six or seven straight matches. The frustrating thing was that I knew I was better than some of the people I fenced, but I just couldn't get touches at key moments. A lot of the matches were close, 5-4 or 5-3, but I never seemed to be able to win them. At the end of the regular season, I was 2-7.

The team, on the other hand, ended up 9-1. Our only loss came against our archrival, Hewlett. We had beaten them at home to start the season, but a bunch of our guys on varsity had horrible days when we got there (not to mention the fact that we got lost on the way there for the first of many times, as the school was 45 minutes away and next to impossible to find from the instructions we had). We were pretty devastated about the loss, but it started to wear off by the time we got back to the bus. Some guys started joking around in the back, and Coach absolutely lost it. He stood in the front of the bus and screamed for ten full minutes about our terrible showing and how if we didn't bust our asses we wouldn't win at the counties, practically frothing at the mouth as he spoke. He was absolutely right--we'd been on cruise control for most of the season after the high of beating Hewlett in the opener, and they caught us by surprise. We sat in dead silence for the rest of the ride home.

There are only six teams in Nassau County with fencing teams, so everyone gets to compete at the county championships. We were already co-conference champs, as both us and Hewlett came away with 9-1 records, but we wanted that county championship as well. It was a whole day affair, as we got to the host school around 8 AM and were there until at least 7 PM every year. As would become a curse for the next three years, Wheatley became our worst enemy at the counties. Wheatley was one of the worst teams in the league, and I doubt we lost two bouts to them in our matches against them in the regular season. Our team has always had problems winning in the morning, probably due to the comparatively late starting time of our high school. For my first three years on the team, we fenced Wheatley either first or second. This particular year, they beat us 4-1, first thing in the morning. We woke up real quick after that embarrassment, but our victories against the other teams (including Hewlett) wasn't enough to catch up, and Hewlett edged us out for first place. On a happier note, Brhet won the individual foil championship to bring home some gold for the school.

Shortly after the season, I bought my own equipment. The school equipment was decent, but it was nice to have things that actually fit me exactly and didn't smell like ten years worth of sweat. It was a pretty big step; just the starter package (mask, jacket, glove, foil, knickers) cost several hundreds of dollars. I think my parents were so happy to see me driven towards something athletic that they didn't even give me a hard time about it.

I certainly knew I didn't want to spend another year struggling on JV, so I started going to the Long Island Swordsmen club every Thursday night. The Swordsmen was a fencing club run by Coach Meiners, where fencers from around the Island could come, practice, spar, and take lessons. Of course, Brhet and company often went as well, so a reprieve from my duties as test dummy was out of the question. Jordan Zolan and a few others started going as well.

One of the amazing people there was an old man named Peter O'Connor. Peter must have been pushing ninety. He walked hunched over, he was hard of hearing, and his hands shook almost constantly. But…you put a foil in his hands, and all his mannerisms completely disappear. One of my favorite fencing moments was the first time I saw him don a mask…he immediately started moving and fighting like a man sixty years his junior. Sometimes I'd see two great fencers sparring from across the room, and I could barely believe my eyes when they'd take off their masks at the end of a match and I'd realize that Peter was one of them. It was an absolutely amazing transformation, almost like he was two separate people.

Up to RimRod's Fencing Autobiography
Back to Chapter One: Re-Education
Forward to Chapter Three: "Home"coming

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