Fencing competes at NAC

St. John’s highly touted fencing team will be putting three of its members to the test at the NAC (North American Cup) junior’s competition in Albuquerque, N.M.

The Red Storm’s Chenzi Zhang (foil) Olga Ovtchinnikova(sabre) and Stan Vaksman (epee) will be competing in this tournament which will run from Nov. 11 to Nov. 14.

“It starts at about 8 a.m. and ends at about 5 p.m., and that’s just straight fencing the entire time,” junior captain Ben Bratton said.

This is one of eight national tournaments quarterbacked by the National Fencing Association and will aid in determining if fencers are qualified to go overseas and compete in the World Cup.

The results of this competition will also assist in picking out Olympic, Pan American, Junior and Cadet World, and University teams.

“It’s really competitive. It’s huge,” St. John’s coach Yury Gelman. “It’s not only the U.S. but countries like Mexico and Venezuela compete also.”

Each of the events is separated by weapon, gender and age.

Some of the finalists in the junior events could possibly be headed to the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

All three St. John’s fencers expect to be ranked in the top-20 which will improve their Olympic chances.

Zhang and Ovtchinnikova are confident in ranking in the top 16 although Ovtchinnikova is aiming for the top eight.

“You must have confidence and focus; you have to think for every touch,” Ovtchinnikova said.

Added Vaksman: “My expectation is to win, to get first place. I’m in the top five in the country now.”

Although schools such as Ohio State and Notre Dame, which have clinched the No. 1 and No. 2 positions in the NCAA standings, the team is confident in their ability and preparation.