Like father like daughter
Valentina Vezzali. Arianna Errigo. Olympic gold medalist fencers inspired freshman Blanche Yang to start fencing. However, her biggest inspiration is her father.
Yang’s father practiced fencing when he was younger and later earned a scholarship for his achievement in the sport. He formerly coached a college fencing team in Beijing. Eight months ago, he introduced his daughter to fencing and acts as her second coach and mentor during her practices.
“He watches me when I train, and every time when I fence, he tells me what to do and how to follow through with my attack,” Yang said. “He says to me, ‘Always try to push forward. Never let the person get to your head,’ and I think that I’ve learned a lot from that. I try not to let losing get to me, through lessons from both my coach and my dad.”
In fencing, there are three disciplines: foil, épée, and sabre. Yang’s weapon of choice is foil, the most commonly used. Since foil is the lightest and most compact, Yang practices target work daily to achieve an accurate hit with the smaller point. In addition, she also does footwork drills in order to become more mobile on the strip.
“I chose foil over sabre and épée because I thought that it fit me better and I found that I enjoyed the concept of it more,” Yang said. “My coach made me hold all the weapons and I chose the one I thought would work with me the best. Fencing is a very precise sport and I really enjoy that aspect of it.”
Yang practices everyday for about one to two hours at her club, Gryphon Fencing Studio. Along with her coach from Gryphon, she learns skills with her father by her side. Yang also practices at home where she has a fencing strip set up for her.
“For the other days of the week, I stay home and I just practice footwork and arm strength with my dad,” Yang said. “We also practice working on my speed. My dad makes me do these really painful things, such as making me get really low so I can become faster. It’s super tiring, and it makes me so sore. But honestly, I don’t really mind doing all of these things, because in the end, I know that it’ll make me a better fencer.”
Yang has attended three competitions so far and hopes to continue fencing in the future. Her goal is to earn a rating of an A or B, which are the highest levels of achievement.
“Fencing is what makes me happy and it means the world to me,” Yang said “I don’t know what I would do without it. I love the entire sport. I love the competition and I love to completely focus on one target and then finally getting the point. It has made me strong physically and emotionally because you have to be fast on your feet and arms, and you can’t let losing get to you. You have to push past it and do better next time.”
By Ashley Liang, Staff writer
Photo courtesy of Blanche Yang