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Diary of a Quarantined Fencer

#6 – Philadelphia

Fencers of all ages from many parts of America spent last week in Philadelphia, competing in Summer Nationals/Junior Olympics. My week in Philadelphia was full of cheesesteak rating, team dinners, sightseeing, and, ah yes, fencing, of course. I arrived a day before the event started, and the first day in Philadelphia was off to a bit of a rocky start when I decided to get my weapons checked as soon as I arrived. I assumed that most fencers would be rushing for weapon checks in the morning of the event.  To my surprise, however, I ended up waiting in line for more than 30 minutes behind at least a hundred people. One of my friends, on the other hand, checked in his gear an hour before the cadet event, and there was no line at all. In this case, this early bird didn’t quite catch the worm. 

My overall performance throughout the event wasn’t perfect, but this year I got to compete in two team events with my teammates. In the Senior team event, I was hoping to be able to fence some of the top-level fencers and just have fun. In the Junior team event, I knew that we actually had a shot at performing well. Unfortunately, we fenced the exact same team in both events and lost. Although we didn’t advance through the brackets, team fencing is always so much more fun and different than individual. Each point won or lost feels more critical.  It seems to weigh a bit more on your shoulder.  Nonetheless, cheering your teammates on, and leading your teammates as the captain throughout the multiple bouts is an amazing experience.

While my fencing results weren’t the best, I took solace in the culinary experience in Philadelphia. I had enough Philly cheesesteaks in one week to last me a lifetime. The Pan-Asian cuisine was also amazing. Japanese, Korean, Chinese, and Vietnamese food after a long day of fencing was simply heavenly. We (my friends, their family, and my family) ventured out to an Italian restaurant for a team dinner one evening, and it was as authentic as a restaurant in Florence that I had visited before COVID-19. 

In addition to fencing and eating, I also visited some tourist attractions.  As you all know, a trip to Philadelphia wouldn’t be complete without climbing the Rocky steps. I went to Independence Hall, which was much smaller than I expected, where the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution were debated and signed. (Spoiler alert!) The Liberty Bell, located right across the street from Independence Hall, is much smaller than you would expect. After visiting some more attractions like Elfreth’s Alley, the oldest street in America, my sister, my dad, and I took a little road trip to UPenn to New Jersey to New York for college visits. UPenn is practically integrated within the city.  Many UPenn buildings stand flanked by banks, restaurants, and shops. Princeton was pretty much opposite with its beautiful, gated campus and paths, walked on by many brilliant minds for over 270 years, weaving through all its awe-inspiring edifices. Columbia is almost a mixture of both universities – a big, gated campus similar to Princeton but with the feel of New York City permeating throughout the campus.

This year’s nationals, like all other national function events I had participated, gave me the chance to fence great competitors, to explore great cities, and to enjoy some vacation time with my family. The July Challenge is coming up next week now.  I look forward to more fencing and yet another opportunity to explore a new city.  Salt Lake City – here I come!

Gus is a Senior at Le Lycée Français de Los Angeles and a C-rated fencer at BHFC. He has been fencing since 2nd grade. On his downtime, he likes to play drums and improve his e-commerce website which he created over the summer.

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