He describes himself as “laid back” and “nonchalant,” but those he has fenced wouldn’t
believe him for a minute.
Ivan Lee, a St. John’s University junior, began fencing at Brooklyn Technical High School when he was 13. Peter Westbrook, a six time Olympian, started a club at his high school and Lee has been involved in the sport ever since. He is a member of the St. John’s fencing team, the U.S. National team and also helps teach fencing to kids over the summer in an after school program.
Being so involved in fencing takes a great deal of thought and concentration.
“It’s all mental,” the 20-year-old said. “If I’m not thinking, it’s over for me. I’m not the fastest or the strongest, but if your head’s on right you can beat anyone.”
Lee tries to distract his opponent in any way he can and get in their head. He calls time outs, talks to them and does anything else he can think of to try and make them lose focus.
“Something happens to me while I’m fencing,” the journalism major said. “I get fired up and act cocky and aggressive. I’m normally pretty quiet and shy, but not when I’m fencing.”
Last year the St. John’s fencing team won the national championship but Lee feels that his team doesn’t get the recognition that it deserves.
“We won the championship last year and nobody knows it,” he said. “We work really hard. I understand that other teams at the school bring in more money than us, but I just want a little recognition. Hopefully we win it again this year so people see it wasn’t a fluke.”
Being a member of the U.S. National Team takes up a lot of Lee’s time and involves a lot of traveling-domestic and international. This year’s team is ranked number eight in the world and is pushing to qualify for the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens.
While he was in high school, Lee also played baseball. However, his father convinced him to focus more on fencing even though his heart was in baseball.
“He told me that I’d have a better chance to make it,” he said. “Baseball is a lot more competitive. I made the right choice though. I’m a NCAA champion and have a full scholarship.”
Lee plans on going to graduate school after receiving his bachelor’s degree at St. John’s to pursue a degree in education. Both of his parents teach and he would like to follow in their footsteps. He loves children and would ideally like to teach to that age group.
“Little kids are the most fun but it’s a challenge,” he said.
When he’s not fencing Lee enjoys sleeping and eating. He doesn’t really like to party that much and stays pretty busy studying and practicing.
“My advice to freshmen is to buckle down and get focused,” he said. “Especially athletes. It’s four stressful years of hard work.”