Q&A with Sada Jacobson
Jewish + Female = Athlete : Portraits of Strength from Around the World
Questions & Answers*
What is your training schedule like now? What are you working toward?
It’s low key, the year after Olympic year. A rebuilding year. So I’m home for the summer, mostly just fencing. Before the Olympics, I trained a lot in the gym in the morning in cardio, agility, balance, stuff like that. A little bit of yoga. Then in the afternoon I took lessons from my coach and fenced, worked on footwork. The next major competition, though we’ll be competing all summer, is the world championships in October, in Germany.
What are you planning to do after you graduate from Yale in December with a degree in history?
I’m thinking about law school.
What’s your favorite part about fencing?
I really like the competition. And the fact that there’s always a new element of it. You never completely master it. There’s always another level to attain.
What was the most recent competition where you fenced against Emily? Who won?
In Bangkok, in February. I won that one but we really go back and forth. It’s really great because we’re training partners so we compete against each other but we’re at the same time a support system for each other.
Did you fight more now or before fencing?
We fight less because we have more in common now through fencing. Also, we’ve gotten older.
Your younger sister, Jackie, fences too?
She fences. She has the talent, so it’s up to her. She can take it as far as she wants to. She’s 16.
What do you like most about traveling around the world?
I think it’s the people we’ve met. We have friends from all over the world. Getting to see them is great.
Greatest sports memory? Biggest achievement?
Probably the World Cup two years ago in New York City. The finals were in Grand Central Station, in the middle, and I won it. It was an incredible experience. Just to have it right in the middle of Grand Central Station in rush hour. People walking by, to be representing the U.S. for that tournament, especially because fencing doesn’t usually get that many spectators.
Why do you think that is?
I don’t think it has that much exposure in the U.S. It’s a very small sport, a little difficult to follow, fast, if you don’t know what’s going on. It’s not the most spectator-friendly sport but it’s gotten a lot more exposure in the last few years, so hopefully that will help.
Have you faced any obstacles as a woman in fencing?
I think in the last couple of years we’ve made a lot of progress. This past year was the first time saber was in the Olympics [as a woman’s sport]. Eppie was in 1996. We’ve covered a lot of ground in the last few years especially.
What opportunities have you had because of sports?
So much, being able to do all this traveling, meeting people I wouldn’t have met otherwise, getting to do something that almost no one else gets to do. I never imagined I would be at the Olympics.
What’s been the biggest challenge? The biggest reward?
The challenge has been maintaining the same level of commitment and motivation. But I think that it pays off so much and sticking with it really gives you a much much greater reward. The biggest reward is the sense that you’re doing something at the very top level, to be competing with the most competitive people in the world. It’s a great feeling.
Any advice for girls just starting out?
I would say stick with it. Especially for women in sports. To have something you can do and do really well is an amazing thing. In fencing especially, if you want it badly enough and are willing to put in the time, energy and effort, you can achieve anything you want.
In your opinion, are there any misperceptions about women in the sport of fencing?
I don’t know. I think that especially at least in women’s saber, the sport has really changed in the last five or six years – the level has shot up. It’s becoming much more athletic, more strategy involved. It’s breaking stereotypes about being much less interesting to watch or participate in than the men’s events.
Who are your role models?
My parents definitely. My dad was and still is a fencer, and so I definitely rely on both of my parents for advice, like how I’m going to pursue my career and kind of set my goals. My dad fenced in college then took a long time off, until 1996, which was when my mom got involved too.
What motivates you?
The competitiveness. I like competing and winning; but you know, at a certain point you have to put in a lot of extra time to be able to win. You have to put all that training in. That’s what motivates me.
Do people in fencing really say “en guarde?"
We actually say en guarde, it means, “Ready, set, go.” [At matches, officiants say] “En guarde, ready, fence.”
*All interviews were conducted by Jodi Werner Greenwald, the calendar author, for express purposes of the Jewish + Female = Athlete project during 2005.