I woke up bright and early Sunday morning. Yesterday I had a good workout at my fencing club, fencing some foil to hone my point control and a few longer attacks before swapping back to epee. I went out for a delicious meal at an all you can eat Korean Barbeque with a coworker and friends. Yeah, that’s right. All you can eat, delicious, savory, goodness to make sure I had enough energy for today’s tournament. We ended the night with a strategy game (Settlers of Catan) at a tea shop nearby.
I towed my fencing bag along an hour subway ride before arriving at Changmun Girl’s High School. Check in was 9:00am but they didn’t announce what time events started until after we all arrived; epee didn’t start until 11:00 so I took my time being social with the clubmates and watching/coaching foil. I made the conscious decision not to warm up my traditional way and simply did some stretching and light footwork. I knew that might risk a few touches in the pools but was mentally ready and minorly worried I worked out too much yesterday.
I easily won my first 4 pool bouts before dropping the last one 5-4. Luckily everyone else lost at least once because I was the #1 seed, just like my last tournament! I’m getting better at spotting my name written in Korean (pronounced Miee-kuh) but being at the top makes it stand out even more.
Our ₩30,000 registration fee included a boxed Korean lunch that consisted of bulgogi, lots of rice, and a bunch of banchan with a Powerade. I ate most of it but was glad I brought trailmix to keep my energy up as the direct elimination (DE) bouts began. I drew the only guy who beat me in the pool for my first DE; luckily I had been annoyed with my loss and thinking about that bout for most of lunch. I knew I had to stay patient and use my flick as a feign which allowed me to take an early 5-2 lead before going touch for touch and finishing him off 15-11.
The next DE was another Korean who I faced in my pool. I had this guys number with a feign 6-flick to a disengage flesch/lunge straight for his shoulder joint. Fortunately his coach had been watching me and showed my opponent how to protect against the flick; unfortunately for him I was a step ahead and finished him off 15-7. I tried to give him some advice about always reacting with the 6 but the language barrier prevented any knowledge exchange and we just shook hands and laughed it off.
My next DE was a French teammate, Pierre. I knew I could move faster than him but was worried about his bladework and point control. We’d only fenced once or twice at the club but I was confident I could win; I just needed to stay patient and focus on one-touch at a time. I took an early lead and tried to be forgiving on Pierre’s knee and not run him down the strip. He’s got a bum knee and I was scared it was going to pop out whenever I watched him lunge earlier in the day and I’d feel like such an asshole if I’m the reason he goes to the hospital. Luckily for both of us he opted to give his knee a rest at 13-6 forfeiting when the second period ended and sending me to the finals!
I really enjoy fencing Pierre and he mentioned that he loves fencing me too. We both have very different styles that involve a lot of bladework; its new to the Koreans and together we gathered quite a crowd of curious Koreans.
My last bout turned out to be another clubmate, Francis. He jokes about how I always clean his clock at practice but its usually closer than he lets on. We went touch for touch until around 10-10 when I pulled away with a nasty wrist flick followed by a foot touch and another wrist touch. The Koreans in the crowd let out all kinds of “ooos” and “ahhhs!” as I finished the bout and secured my first Korean Gold medal.
Icing on today’s cake was being asked to have a friendly bout with a tall Korean bystander. I love fencing, I love every touch, I love competing, I love coaching and making new fencing friends. Yeah sure I’m in it to win it but I’m really in it because I just love the bout. We jumped on strip and he managed to score 2 before I got to 5. We traded numbers and shook hands before I met up with the rest of my club to watch our foilist take the gold! Oh, and that’s a “V” for victory, not a “peace sign!”