Art of Fencing, Art of Life

The Worst Fencer

The worst fencer

At the most recent Cadet and Junior World Fencing Championships, held in Dubai, hundreds of fencers competed against one another for the title of World Champion. 

Here are the last place Junior fencers in each category.

  • Women’s Sabre – Elizaveta Shvets of Israel and Carla Hernandez from Equador at #125
  • Men’s Sabre – Mathias Planckh of Austria at #152
  • Women’s Foil – Sofia Tsoneva of Bulgaria at #148
  • Men’s Foil – Michael Jones of Antigua and Barbuda at #180 
  • Women’s Epee – Maysa Guerreiro of Angola at #160
  • Men’s Epee – Nathan Ra of Cambodia and Al Yacine Ouro-Agora of Togo at #208

Strictly speaking, these are lowest ranking Junior fencers at the Cadet and Junior World Fencing Championships in each category. They’re last place. 

Here’s the question – does that make them the worst fencers?

Where you measure from matters

The worst fencer at the Cadet and Junior World Fencing Championships is still a fencer who made it that far. In the country that they came from, they would rank among the best fencers. To get to the World Championships, they would have had to be among the highest-ranked fencers in their country. 

When you look at these fencers in the context of the global stage, when you measure them from the top of the top and only through the lens of that single competition, you perceive them as the lowest ranked. When you measure them in the context of their national stage, you perceive them as the highest ranked. The “worst” fencer (which is a harsh term) at the World Fencing Championships, was probably the best fencer at their national championship. 

Who is the worst fencer?

I recently saw a post by Seth Godin, a motivational writer who I find consistent inspiration from.He’s always giving me food for thought. Oftentimes, his writing is about how we are able to put things in perspective, and how that perspective can help us to achieve.

The following is adapted from one of his pieces. 

The worst fencer in the country came in last place at Fencing Summer Nationals.

Wait, that’s not true. 

The worst fencer didn’t qualify for SN. 

The worst fencer in the region didn’t get a podium finish at the regional competition.

Hold on, that’s not true. 

The worst fencer didn’t drive from their town to the regional competition.

The worst fencer in town came in last in the club tournament. 

Actually, that’s not true. 

The worst fencer didn’t even enter the club tournament.

The worst fencer is at the bottom of the class.

Well, that’s not true either. 

The worst fencer never even picked up a sword. 

No matter how you place in competition, no matter what level that competition is, you are still ahead of the others who never even picked up a fencing sword. 

It’s so critically important for us to understand that rankings and ratings have meaning, but they are only useful when we look at them with the right perspective. Fencing is not some isolated venture. All of the ways that we measure ourselves happen within the wider context of who and where we are competing. 

In the end, there will always be someone who is further up the path than you are, and there will always be someone who is behind you on the path. It does us no good to put our value based on any ranking, no matter how high. 

If the fencers competing at the World Championships spent all of their time and emotional energy thinking how they were at the bottom of the rankings in that one competition, they would miss out on the incredible accomplishment that it is to have qualified at all and to go to Dubai to compete.

If you spend all of your time and emotional energy thinking about how you are not at the top of whatever competition, you will miss out on the incredible accomplishment and privilege that it is to be fencing at all

Every fencer is on their own path. Every path is one worth celebrating. 

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1 Comment

  1. Alan Buchwald

    Great Stuff, Igor! AB

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