Breathtaking. Unexpected. Deserved.
Any and all of us who have been in and around American fencing for the last few decades know that where we are today is almost unrecognizable from where we were thirty years ago.
This journey inspired me to write a book about it – From Cool Runnings to World Superpower: The Rise of American Fencing. Which goes on sale on June 14th, 2019!
The story of how America rose to the top is one that is as exciting as anything you’ll read about in sports. It’s intertwined with global politics, because we discover that America became home to some of the greatest fencing talent in the world thanks to the end of the Cold War. That talent, coupled with the incredible innovation that is the hallmark of the American ideal, has come together to create a story that it’s impossible to put down.
What happened with American fencers is the kind of transformation that you see in movies. In fact, it made me think of a classic Olympic film, Cool Runnings. You know the one, it’s the very fictionalized account of the real events that led to the first Jamaican bobsled team. U.S. fencers at one time were almost as much of a longshot as the bobsledders from the Caribbean, though without the comedy we see in the movie.
Why I wrote this book
While I watched the United States continue to grow as a talent in the World Championships and Olympics, I was full of curiosity with how it might have happened. How did America go from being a major underdog to being a major player? It wasn’t at all by accident. I’ve watched as Americans almost never stood a chance of getting to the Olympic podium, to today where we are highly ranked and can count on American fencers making it to the top not just once, but multiple times during the Olympics.
Who can resist the story of someone with no chance who comes out on top? Curiosity is a hallmark of fencing, we always have our minds going as we work to figure out what the opponent is going to do and how we can get ahead of them. What I decided was that the only way to really nurture our growing talent would be if we really understood where we came from.
The connections between varied aspects of American culture and fencing culture fit together in perfect patterns, like pieces of a puzzle. Cobbling those pieces together, I started to see where American fencing came from. My hope is that figuring that out will help us to understand and prepare for where we are going. As an immigrant myself, I have an insider’s view into what it means to come to the United States and build a life for my family full of fencers.
All of the information in the world does no do any good if it’s not shared. So I decided to share it with the fencing community in the form of a book! What I hope is that it starts a dialogue about what who we are as a fencing community, and that it helps us to know which questions to ask going forward. The American fencing story is of course only beginning.
I look out into our club and I see how very hard the fencers are training. I see them go to competition after competition, taking guidance from their coaches and with the support of their families. For them, I am always seeking something better. How better can we help American fencers to succeed? How can we maximize the potential in the athletes that we nurture? These are questions that I ask constantly, relentlessly. These are the kinds of questions that made it clear to me that I had to go deeper, and that’s why I wrote this fencing book.
Knowledge that matters to fencers
Technique is important. Practice is critical. Training is essential. Understanding our sport in the big picture is what will leap us forward even further.
This book will take you on a journey along with American fencing from the beginnings in the times of the Founding Fathers, all the way through the lackluster first decades of American competition in the Olympic Games, and on to today where American fencing stands poised to build on its success and become a major player on the world stage. It’s been a complicated road for the United States, one that’s intertwined with world politics and changing social structures. The American story is one of immigration and tenacity.
Noticing the change is one thing, understanding why it happened is another. How have American fencers gone from being at the bottom of the fencing barrel to rising to the top? What is unique about the American fencing story in comparison to established European fencing powers? Where is American fencing going and how will the past inform the future? You’re going to find lots of references in this book, because so much research went into its development. I worked hard to make sure that every figure was right, every claim could be backed up. Nothing is ever perfect, we know that as fencers, but when you read it I hope that you can see how much effort went into accuracy.
Going from a nobody to a somebody is a classic American story. Here we chronicle the influences that have pushed the United States through a breathtaking and unexpected rise to the top of world fencing. From Cold War politics to competitive structures, generational learning to innovative techniques, here you’ll find the wandering and thrilling tale of how we got here. There’s undoubtedly a long way yet to go, but learning the path here is key to taking American fencing forward towards that well-deserved success.
From Cool Runnings to World Superpower: The Rise of American Fencing by Igor Chirashnya is available on Amazon today, in both hard copy and Kindle form. The audiobook version can be found on Audible.