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Fencing Tournament Report – Cincinnati NAC (December 2018)

I had hoped to write this up earlier, but have been delayed by illness and holidays. This event was about 2 weeks ago and is one of several North American Cups (NAC) held every year by the US Fencing Association.

Description of the Event

What is a NAC? This is basically a series of national-level events that is run by US Fencing, with one held about once a month (October, November, December, January, March, April) during the main part of the fencing season. Each event encompasses different levels and age groups for the competition. The specific NACs for this season can be found here.

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Facing down the strip.

The location for these events rotates through different cities across the U.S. (and at least once in Canada that I remember). Ohio seems to be a favorite state this year, with events in Cincinnati, Columbus, and Cleveland. The December NAC this year was open for Division I, Division II, Vet Open, Vet Age, and Senior Team events.

I went to fence in both the Vet Open and Vet Age Group events, although technically I could have also fenced in Division I and II. Division I is for fencers who are rated as A, B, or C, and those who finish high enough earn points which count toward a national ranking. Division II is for fencers who are rated C and below.

Registration

The NAC registrations are done through the USFA’s site. The deadline for entry for a NAC is more than a month ahead of the event. The site also lists who is registered, so you can agonize about your competitors for weeks ahead of time.

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A general view of the venue.

I have a C rating and am usually comfortable in Division II, but my event for Div II was on the first day of competition and the Vet events were more important for me this year so I decided to sit out Div II and stay fresh for the other events. I have fenced dozens of Division I events in the past, but decided against the extra expense of this entry for what would probably be five 5-touch bouts.

Each NAC event features an Athlete Packet which gives all the details for the venue, tournament format, and other rules.

Location and Venue

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View of the ice rink from the Westin.

Airfare for this event ended up being fairly inexpensive, so I booked a flight. My travel was uneventful and I made it to Cincinnati in the evening on Friday. The airport for the Cincinnati area is actually in northern Kentucky. I booked a shuttle service from the airport to the hotel and back.

A NAC is typically held in a convention center, where there is plenty of room for dozens of fencing strips, a finals strip, vendors, and the bout committee. The December NAC was held at the Duke Energy Convention Center in downtown Cincinnati. As far as I could tell, it was a pretty standard convention center. I didn’t see that any other events shared the venue with us that weekend.

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Bruschetta with honey and goat cheese.

Cincinnati offered several large hotels within walking distance to the venue. I stayed with friends at the Westin and we scored a suite after some confusion and phone calls.

I was pleasantly surprised by downtown Cincinnati. We found plenty of places to eat (although most require reservations to get in), and there was a cute downtown square with a Christmas tree and small ice rink.

Check-In and Ticketing

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Downtown Cincinnati

US Fencing has instituted a new ticketing system for attendance at national events for this season. This was my first chance to see how it worked. Anyone with a valid USFA membership just has to show their membership card. Others pay a small fee of $5 per day or $15 for the whole event.

The typical check-in booth was located outside the event hall. I swiped my membership card when I arrived, and a staff member gave me one of those stick on wrist bands. She didn’t even put it on my wrist and just handed it to me. I ended up wearing it on my wrist, but could easily have handed it off to someone else and then gone back for another one.

I did see the person at the door ask to see the wrist bands so the ticketing was at least enforced. We were also told that we could put the band on a bag. But again, what’s to stop someone from obtaining one band, placing it on a throwaway bag, and then proceeding to hand that off to anyone who wants to enter later on that weekend?

Format and Fencing

The format for the veteran events is a round of pools followed by reseeding into a direct elimination (DE) tableau. No one is eliminated until you lose a DE bout. There is no fence-off for third place. Top 8 make the podium and receive medals. Points are awarded as well and these contribute to a fencer’s national ranking.

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The raised finals strip.

Pools are fenced to 5 touches and DE bouts are fenced to 10 (15 for non-veteran events). Video replay is allowed at a certain point in the event. I believe in my events it started in the semi-finals. The gold medal bout is fenced on the raised finals strip.

My events took place on Saturday (Vet Open WS) and Sunday (Vet 40 WS). I also purchased new blades since I had broken my last one in practice shortly before this event.

My Fencing

I started out pretty jittery in the first few bouts of the Vet Open event. I decided to do an experiment by drinking coffee and eating a bigger breakfast than I usually would have. My stomach felt uncomfortably full during my warm-up, and I’m not sure if the jitters were from the coffee or just nerves.

After the first three bouts in my pool, I settled down and began to fence better. I ended up with a 4-2 record and an indicator of +9. That ended up putting me 12th of 41 for the DE round. I fenced progressively better as the day went on and soon found myself in the gold medal bout. I ended up losing a close match to a friend and took 2nd place.

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Vet Open WS Podium (photo by Kate Sierra)

About an hour after the Vet Open concluded, I started to feel progressively more congested and soon decided that I was coming down with a cold. I stayed at the venue to watch the MS event, had a nice dinner with another club’s fencers and coaches, and then went to sleep.

Day 2 of my fencing found me well-rested but definitely sick. I didn’t feel too bad if I moved slowly, so I worked on some writing in my hotel room before the afternoon Vet 40 event. I stuck with the same nutrition plan – good breakfast plus coffee.

My warm-up was very minimal because I felt like I had a very tiny amount of energy to use for the day. The Vet 40 event was significant smaller than the Vet Open, with only eleven fencers. I tried to fence without moving much, because whenever I exerted myself, my heart rate skyrocketed and I was winded in just seconds.

Given my illness, I didn’t do half badly, ending up with a 3-2 record and an indicator of +6. That put me into 4th place going into the DE round. I managed to put myself into the semi-finals where I lost to a strong fencer 10-7, ultimately finishing in 3rd place. The day ended with a trip to a brewery for a burger and beer, and then bed.

Results for the entire NAC can be found here.

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One silver, one bronze!

I’m happy with my fencing on this trip, although I wish I hadn’t been sick for the second day. Now I’m taking a short break and then it’s back to practice. Coming up – several smaller events in January and February and then another NAC in April!

Did you fence this December in Cincinnati? How was your event? Would you return to another NAC in Cincinnati? Do you travel nationally for fencing or just locally? Let me know in the comments!

See my other fencing articles and event reports here.

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Summer Nationals – Day 3

I’ve actually arrived back at home by now, but I didn’t want to let more time go by before I finished up my posts on the 2014 Summer Nationals.

This final day of competition for me saw me in Division I-A. This was a tough event, and my opponents were at a level that I’m not usually used to fencing. 100MEDIA$IMAG1365

Unfortunately my legs had had enough of all the lunging and jumping back and forth and my fencing prowess went rapidly downhill from my first bout. The ideas were there, but I couldn’t execute them. At least I didn’t finish last.

I wanted to go back now to show some photos and video of the event. Here is a general view of the convention center from where I’m standing at the side of one of the instant replay strips.

If anyone would like to see the full results for any event in the tournament, you can look at this link on the US Fencing Association’s page.100MEDIA$IMAG1368

This next photo shows one of the equipment vendors. They have everything from blades to shoes.

The USFA also posts videos of the finals on their youtube account. These are great to watch to see some nice fencing, but also are useful to learn from.

Lastly, here is a video that I made with one of the club’s men’s sabre fencers (on the left) in a first round bout in Division I.

 

 

Summer Nationals – Days 1 and 2

It’s been a whirlwind of fencing here in Columbus, Ohio. I had planned to write a post each day, but time got away from me yesterday. Too many bouts to watch, too much equipment to buy, and too many friends to see.

That’s one thing that isn’t obvious to a newcomer to such an event. For those of us who have attended, oh, more than a dozen of these, you will run into teammates, friends, and competitors that you haven’t seen in days, months, or years. It’s an opportunity to catch up, cheer each other on, and grab dinner and maybe a few drinks.

So the end result of that was that by the time I made it back to the hotel, I was overcome by sleep before I could blog.

Yesterday I fenced Division III – 12th of 100. Today I fenced Division II – 24th of 96. One more event to go. I’ll get some photos of the venue for tomorrow’s post.

I have to add that the sports medicine staff has been great. My back was stiff and sore after the 8+ hour drive to Columbus, before I ever fenced. I was afraid that after day 1 of competition, my back muscles would stiffen up worse than ever and I’d be ruined for the rest of my events. One short trip to Jeremy (who has worked on my back before), and I was as good as new.

Here is a video of the gold medal bout for the men’s sabre Division I-A event. This bout happened a few days ago, but it takes them a little time to get the videos edited and posted. A few tips for watching:

  • Yes, the referee is speaking French
  • There is a strange pause at 3-7. This is because the fencer on the left asked for video review. There is a second referee sitting in front of a computer that can show an instant replay of the action.
  • Once one fencer reaches 8 points, there is a one minute break.
  • On the last touch, there is another video review request.

I bought two more pairs of socks today. They’re the best fencing socks that I’ve found.

Who else fenced today? When you’re not there fencing, do you watch other events, shop, socialize, or head back to the hotel’s jacuzzi?

Summer Nationals – Day 0

It’s finally here! Summer Nationals started on June 22nd, and hordes of fencers will be converging on the Columbus Convention Center in central Ohio through July 3rd. If you missed my earlier post, you can catch up on the basic facts of the event here.

This year I decided to drive because I’m fencing on three separate days and the airfare was rather unfriendly. I packed my tournament equipment, which doesn’t differ much from my everyday practice equipment at this point. I threw an extra lamé in the car, double-checked that my competition mask was in my bag, and tossed a lot of extra socks in my suitcase. About nine hours later, I have arrived!

Dinner or fire?

Dinner or fire?

I have checked in at an Extended Stay America for the week, which features a kitchen. I unpacked my cooler, and since it was too late to order dinner anywhere, set to work cooking myself a carb-heavy meal. I searched out a plate, spatula, knife, fork, and colander, only to discover that I lacked a pot to boil water. With a quick trip to the lobby, I obtained two pots. The woman working at the front desk seemed surprised that I really wanted to cook. Wasn’t that one of their advertising points? She warned me to be careful not to set off the smoke alarms.

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Dessert – Nutella with strawberries

Well everyone should be happy to know that I managed to boil water without setting off the sprinklers. I don’t fence until the afternoon tomorrow, so I hope that this meal will stay with me through the day. I don’t like to eat much immediately before or during a tournament. Most importantly though, I remembered dessert!

Each event in a tournament is given a check-in window an hour in length. The first round of fencing typically starts thirty minutes after the check-in ends, although with the increased prevalence of computerized tournament software, sometimes this happens faster. I used to plan on arriving at the beginning of that window, but for tomorrow I’ll probably arrive earlier than that. I need to allow enough time for my warmup.

For the first day of competition, I’ll have to take my equipment to be tested and approved by the armorers. They will evaluate it for safety and conductivity. Once each piece passes for the first event, it doesn’t need to be retested on the following days.

I don’t have any particular rituals or routines that I need to perform before my event. I’ll bring an iPod with some music for my warmup. If I’m at the venue early enough, I’ll watch some of the other events. I might scan the vendors for interesting new gear, although I rarely buy anything until later in the day.

For other fencers, how do you prepare on the day before a tournament? Do you have a unique routine? Does it differ for a local event when compared to one where you need to travel?

Summer Nationals – US Fencing’s Super Event

On occasion, someone will ask me how long the fencing season runs. This isn’t really a fair question – as fencing has grown in popularity in the last decade, the season has expanded to the extent that you can find somewhere to fence any time through the year. You can look at several different aspects of fencing in this regard – the NCAA season, local events, national events, club practices, or training camps. Even with this variety, a lot of fencers still conclude their season by competing in the US Fencing Association’s largest event – the super-sized tournament known as Summer Nationals.

Summer Nationals has events for everyone – with all three weapons included, men’s and women’s divisions, and age groups stretching from under 10 years to over 70 years of age. The event is held at the end of June/beginning of July, and rotates through different locations across the country. This year, it will be in Columbus, Ohio and runs from June 22 to July 3.

Unfortunately, not every fencer can compete in Summer Nationals. The tournament has grown so large that, for most of the events, an athlete must qualify by competing in local competitions earlier in the year. The main events are divided into four divisions – I, IA, II, and III. Division I is restricted to the most elite athletes and can only be entered by those with a rating of A, B, or C. For more information on the rating system, see my post here. For Divisions IA, II, and III, the fencer must have finished within a certain percentage of the field in a local qualifier or a designated regional event. Divisions II and III also restrict the entrants to only those fencers of lower ratings.

After Summer Nationals concludes, many fencers may take some time off over the summer. Others will head to training camps held in a variety of locations either in the US or abroad. Local competitions typically start up again in September, with the first North American Cup (national event) held in October.

After my ankle injury last spring, I had to withdraw from the 2013 Summer Nationals. This year, I’ll be fencing in Division IA, II, and III, as long as I don’t have any other accidents before then!

 

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