Brandeis fencers compete in South Korea

Trip offers high-level matches, serves as cultural exchange

Photo/Friends of Brandeis Fencing

Thomas Hearne ’16, left, competes in epee

En garde, ready, fence! or in Korean, Jun-bi ddahng!

Five Brandeis University fencers are participating this week in the fourth annual Korea-USA Elite Fencing Invitational (KUEFI) in Suwon, South Korea. The two-day tournament serves as a competition for American and Korean collegiate fencers as well as a cultural exchange.

Brandeis is one of 11 American and seven South Korean universities competing in KUEFI. The program provides each athlete with an all-expenses paid trip to South Korea to promote the sport of fencing and foster a positive, long-lasting relationship between the U.S. and South Korea.

In addition to the competition, the Brandeis fencers have been exploring Suwon with their American and South Korean counterparts to learn more about the host country and its culture, including its food, history and sports. The student-athletes will also participate in a seminar on the education systems in both nations.

“It really has been exciting,” said Vikki Nunley ’14, who competed in women’s foil. “The event is in Suwon, so we’re in the center of so much. We’re surrounded by city, people and restaurants…the Korean food has been stellar. Also, it’s been fantastic getting to know other American and South Korean college fencers.”

Prior to their matches against the South Koreans, the American fencers watched them fence in the 2014 Asian Fencing Championships at the SK Olympic Gymnasium, which housed the fencing competition during the 1988 Olympic Games. The fencers returned to the venue the next morning to compete in KUEFI.

In saber, Judges captain Jess Ochs-Willard ‘15 improved on his 21st place result from last year, finishing 14th after being eliminated by Canadian national team member and NCAA championship runner-up Shaul Gordon.

Nunley and Leonard Grazian ‘17 reached the first elimination round in foil, finishing 20th and 22nd, respectively. Thomas Hearne ’16 and Justin Kwon ’16 also made the first elimination match in epee, ending their days at 28th and 31st, respectively.

“The South Koreans are ridiculously good, as per usual,” said Nunley, who has competed at KUEFI twice. “In women’s foil, no Americans made the top eight.”

South Korea’s fencing prowess has been on the rise in recent years. In addition to their success at KEUFI, South Korean fencers won nine of 12 events at the Asian Fencing Championships.

Brandeis head fencing coach Bill Shipman welcomed the opportunities KUEFI afforded his fencers. “The fencers get some extra training and a chance to fence a style they don’t often see,” Shipman said. He added that the fencers were able to test their own mettle against the South Koreans, which Shipman said can prove to be valuable in the collegiate setting.

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