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Maggie Hendricks

Average Fan's Guide to Fencing

Maggie Hendricks
Fourth-Place Medal

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I can't help but think of Inigo Montoya when I watch fencing. If only he would have won a gold medal after defeating the six-fingered man! Luckily, today's fencers are not fighting for their lives or to avenge their father's death. They are fencing their way to a gold medal.

USA Fencing is in a little bit of trouble right now, to put it mildly. The USOC took over USA Fencing in June after it was found that USAF was not paying athletes the money owed to them. Mariel Zagunis, who won the USA's first gold medal in fencing in a century, is still owed more than $30,000. In addition to not paying athletes and coaches, the USAF administration is accused of not communicating with its members. How can that be true when the association's president, Nancy Anderson, sent out a memo with playful kittens on it? I wonder if the kittens were fencing?

Despite the turmoil in their governing body, the U.S. has put together a strong team for the games. Three time Olympian Keeth Smart, who is overcoming a rare blood disease suffered earlier this year as well as the death of his mother, leads the men's sabre team. With a sabre, the fencer is looking to touch their opponent anywhere above the waist, including the head. Women's sabre, who had the most success the U.S. has ever had in Athens, is led by Zagunis and 2005 world champion Rebecca Ward.

The United States is not a power in fencing, and the sabre is undoubtedly our best shot at a medal. That being said, I wouldn't count any of the following fencers out. In the foil, a lighter weapon used to touch the torso, the U.S. will be represented by Gerek Meinhardt for the men, and Emily Cross, Erinn Smart (Keeth Smart's sister), Hanna Thompson and Doris Willette for the women. Using the epee, a heavier weapon that can be touched anywhere, Seth Kelsey and Kelly Hurley will fence for the U.S.

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