by Elise Chassman, editor
Junior Maddie Ash became a fencer when she started playing with curtain rods at the age of 7. After using them as makeshift sabres (swords used in fencing) she convinced her mom to let her pursue the sport of fencing.
She now competes in tournaments all over the United States, representing her national team from California. Ash has been all over the country to remote locations where the competitions are held in venues such as large convention centers. When she arrives at a competition, her weapons are checked to make sure they are legal, and she stays in hotels with her mom until it is time to compete.
During the competition, Ash always makes sure to take a few deep breaths before beginning to fight. After hooking into the reel, which helps referees to know if the fighter has been hit, she starts the bout slowly, feeling out her opponent.
In the under 17 years-old girls division, Ash is ranked 8th in California. She has also recently qualified for the Junior Olympics taking place in Kansas City this February, a major feat. Ash credits much of her success to her parents.
“My parents are my biggest support system. A lot of parents get in their kid’s faces after a tough match, and the kid burns out really fast, but my parents have never been like that, and I think that’s why I have stuck with it for so long.”
Ash attends practice every weekday in San Francisco for two hours, and every Saturday for three hours, with an hour-long private lesson somewhere in between. One of the things that Ash said that non-fencers wouldn’t be aware of is her muscle strength. With all of the one-sided strengthening in her training, her right thigh is much stronger than her left. This is a nuisance because if a fencer doesn’t strengthen their other side, they can develop scoliosis. She must do additional training to keep herself equally strong, which takes training time away from her fencing.
Ash’s busy fencing schedule often affects her schooling.
“A lot of my teachers are relaxed about it, but I find that with some classes that are instruction-based, it can be really hard to stay on top of things when I’m gone as often as I am.”
Ash has been able to stay successful in school while furthering her fencing career. Her plans for the future include fencing in college and continuing to fence for the rest of her life, but she doesn’t know exactly where her path will go as a competing fencer.