Q&A with Emily Jacobson

Jewish + Female = Athlete : Portraits of Strength from Around the World

Questions & Answers*

Emily Jacobson | Sada Jacobson | Daniela Krukower | Keren Leibovitch | Hagit Oz | Jillian Schwartz | Back to Calendar

Emily Jacobson

What does your training schedule look like right now?
We train six days a week for three to four hours a day. That’s all I’ve ever done, even before the Olympics, because I was in high school. I got up at 6:00 a.m. and went to school. What I’m doing now is the same, maybe a little less intense, but the same as what I’ve done.

What are you studying at Columbia?
Psychology. I just find it interesting.

Favorite part about fencing?
I like the fact that it’s a very physical sport but it also has a definite mental part to it. You can’t just win by being strongest and fastest. Though that’s important, you also have to be the smartest.

How does one learn to be a smarter fencer?
We have one-on-one individual lessons with our coach and those lessons are organized in such a way that you learn strategy, specific sequences of actions and timing.

What’s it like to have a sister just ahead of you in life and fencing?
It’s fine. I don’t know, we train together. I don’t think of it like that. I just think of her as I think of any of our other teammates. We help each other, we train together, we’re there for each other as we’re competing.

What’s your favorite place to travel to?
I really like going to Cuba. It’s just a place where not many Americans get to go. Interesting culture, the people are really friendly. It’s interesting to see how they live and how it’s different than how we live.

Greatest sports memory? Biggest achievement?
I guess winning the Junior World Championships in 2004.

Are there any obstacles you’ve faced as a woman in fencing?
Women’s saber is a new sport, so I think when it entered into the Olympics that was one big hurdle we crossed. And we still don’t have a team event, so we’re still short. But I think we’re definitely, after Olympics this summer, being recognized as real athletes and competitors and not just as women.

What opportunities have you had because of sports?
It’s given me the opportunity to see the world. On most trips, it’s an in-and-out, four-day trip, though I’ve been all over the world. One weekend in February, I went to Korea, Japan and Thailand. Most people my age can’t say that.

Any advice for girls just starting out in fencing?
Stick with it. It can be frustrating at times, but it’s really a great sport. There’s so much potential in it, especially now. It’s still growing; you can go so far with it.

Who are your role models?
I guess I look up to our teammates, our junior national saber team; we look up to each other. Also Sada and teammate Mariel Zagunis.

What motivates you?
I just love the sport. It’s hard to imagine my life without it. It’s something my whole family does together.

Biggest reward/biggest challenge?
For me, the biggest challenge was giving up my entire high school life for fencing. It was the hardest thing for me. I really had no social life in high school. I had friends, but I had practice every day and every weekend. I couldn’t go out on weekends, and I left for a month solid junior and senior year. I missed my prom. That was hard to get over. But on the other hand, I’m an Olympian. In the end, I’d rather be an Olympian than go to a prom. The Olympics felt so far away at the time, but then it came. And now, looking back, it was a really big thing. I’m really proud of myself for doing it. I’d do it again all over.

The biggest reward?
Every medal is rewarding. Incredibly. From when I won the Junior World Championships to the NCAAs this year. It just feels really good to win, wherever you are.

Is it true that there’s no off-season in fencing?
It seems like there’s no off time but there really is. Junior year starts in October and goes through April, but the senior season goes from December through October. NCAA season is the winter. When you narrow down which [seasons you fence], there’s somewhat of an off-season. But we train consistently all year round.

On training to peak at competition time.
You don’t want to be burnt out the day you’re fencing the world championships, but you also don’t want to not be ready. Our coach figures that out with our individual lessons. I also know my body now. If I need a day off, I know I need a day off. And if I need to work harder, I know that too.

 *All interviews were conducted by Jodi Werner Greenwald, the calendar author, for express purposes of the Jewish + Female = Athlete project during 2005.