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Voting Now Open for the USA Fencing Spirit of Sport Annual Winner

06/03/2019, 12:30pm CDT
By Kristen Henneman

(Colorado Springs, Colo.) – USA Fencing is pleased to announce the six finalists for the USA Fencing Spirit of Sport Annual Winner.

The inaugural year of this recognition, the fencing community can now vote for the annual winner through Sunday, June 9.

Each finalist was chosen by a selection committee as the top honoree of the four winners in their region throughout the 2018-19 season based on commitment, dedication, respect, teamwork, inclusion, passion, sportsmanship and character.

The annual winner will receive a plaque and be honored at the 2019 USA Fencing National Championships and July Challenge in Columbus, Ohio.

The six finalists are:

  • Region 1: Olivia Steverson (Laramie, Wyo.)
  • Region 2: Ryan Bardellini (Indianapolis, Ind.)
  • Region 3: John Carroll (Pittsburgh, Pa.)
  • Region 4: Aditi Soin (Sunnyvale, Calif.)
  • Region 5: Berton (Jack) Bolerjack (Denton, Texas)
  • Region 6: Nicholas Beach (Greenville, S.C.)

Each finalist’s story is below. To vote, click here.

More information about the Fencing Spirit of Sport Recognition Program, as well as all of the 2018-19 winners, can be found at https://www.usafencing.org/spirit-of-sport.

Olivia Steverson

Club: University of Wyoming Fencing Club
Age: 20
Weapon: Saber
Number of Years Fencing: 10
Nominated By: Toriana Shephard (Club President)

Despite being a member of University of Wyoming Fencing Club for less than three years, Olivia Steverson is making an incredibly positive impact, inspiring a new passion for the sport in others and creating an accepting environment. As a student coach, she puts her fencers above her own achievements, ensuring members are having fun while treating others with respect. Everyone – regardless of weapon or background – is welcome. Steverson introduced saber to an épée club, working to erase negative stereotypes between the different weapons. She also makes sure the club is respectful of members of the LGBTQ+ community so that everyone knows they are welcome to join the club and fence.

“During her time with UWFC I have seen Olivia excel as a student coach and vice president for the club,” Shephard said. “I cannot think of another person I have met while fencing more deserving of this honor than Olivia.”

Ryan Bardellini

Club: IndySabre
Age: 19
Weapon: Saber
Number of Years Fencing: Nine
Nominated By: Kimberly Bardellini (Parent)

Just days after competing at the November North American Cup in 2017, Bardellini – a high school senior who had dreams of fencing in college – was in an accident over Thanksgiving weekend. In a coma and not expected to live after suffering a traumatic brain injury, Bardellini’s mother was told that even if he did wake up, he would live in a persistent vegetative state. But Bardellini fought – just like he had on the fencing strip since he was 10. He spent three months in the hospital learning to breathe, eat, walk and talk again, showing incredible determination. His dream throughout was to fence again and, after leaving the hospital in a wheelchair in March of 2018, Bardellini is now working hard on a comeback, running, working out daily and working with his coach with his eye on competing this year.

“Fencing has been a huge part of my son, Ryan Bardellini's, life,” Kimberly Bardellini said. “He's a true miracle and I credit a lot of his recovery to the passion, dedication and commitment he developed as a fencer.”

John Carroll

Club: Pittsburgh Fencers' Club
Age: 71
Weapon: Épée and foil
Number of Years Fencing: Seven
Nominated By: Deerwood McCord (Team member)

Carroll has many different roles in the fencing community, including a teacher, supporter and fencer himself. He is the head coach of Aquinas Academy Fencing Club, where he has made significant strides in growing the program, and offers seminars and camps to support his young fencers. He also values their academics by offering tutoring and publicizes their accomplishments by writing press releases. Carroll supports his team members at Pittsburgh Fencers' Club, attending tournaments even if he’s not competing and is always available for fencing advice and moral support. At Pittsburgh Fencers’ Club, he also has helped with the planning process for the club’s inaugural RYC, attending planning sessions to support young fencers and expand the sport in the area. And competing is just one more way Carroll exudes his love for fencing, never fearing loss.

“John Carroll has demonstrated exceptional dedication to the sport of fencing,” McCord said. “He is a student. A coach. A mentor. John embraces the sport and all who participate in it.”

Aditi Soin

Clubs: UCSD and Academy of Fencing Masters
Age: 22
Weapon: Épée
Number of Years Fencing: Nine
Nominated By: Vinita Soin (Parent)

In love with fencing and dedicated to it before she’d even tried the sport, Aditi Soin was persistent for three years trying to convince her parents to allow her to fence. At 14, her wish was granted and she’s been fencing ever since. Now at UCSD, Soin is always supporting her teammates. She volunteers many hours to help the team and, when she was injured, she supported her team from the sidelines. She has run summer camps and shows her love of the sport through blog posts. She also is known for her sportsmanship, once offering her own weapon to her opponent in need so that she avoided disqualification.

“Aditi is well known for her sportsmanship spirit on and off the strip,” Vinita Soin said. “I have often received compliments from other coaches and referees about her calm and respectful behavior.”

Berton (Jack) Bolerjack

Club: University of North Texas Fencing Club
Age: 23
Weapon: Foil
Number of Years Fencing: Four and a half
Nominated By: Tiffany Miller (Club Vice President)

Known for his hard work and selfless nature, Berton (Jack) Bolerjack will sacrifice his own practice time to help others succeed or fix their gear. Since becoming the club armorer in 2015, Bolerjack has completely restructured the way the armory functions, allowing the club to equip more fencers and keep better track of gear expenditures, which enables the club to attend more tournaments. At tournaments, he helps others in any way he can, checking their gear and cheering on his teammates as well as fencers he’s met from across the country. He once offered up his own weapon when someone’s broke during a competition. On the strip, his focus isn’t on winning and losing, but rather learning from his bouts and representing his club and the sport in a positive way.

“From the moment he started fencing at our university club in August 2014, I knew Jack would be not only an amazing fencer, but an amazing asset to our club as a person,” Miller said. “Everything he does, he does with the utmost care, respect and intent.”

Nicholas Beach

Club: Foothills Fencing Academy
Age: 18
Weapon: Épée
Number of Years Fencing: Six
Nominated By: CJ McCarter (Coach)

Beach founded the fencing team at his high school, doing all the necessary research and working with the school to find a teacher sponsor and space for the team to practice. After the first year, when the coach could not continue, he volunteered to coach. Each year, Beach has helped the team grow, recruiting more and more students to join the team. He also has helped run interschool meets. Both at the high school and his club, Beach has always included and encouraged other fencers, practicing with those who are younger and less experienced. During meets, he always shows good sportsmanship, shaking hands with the opposing team and helping other fencers improve.

“I believe Nicholas Beach is worthy of being selected for the USA Fencing Spirit of Sport recognition,” McCarter said. “He has shown great commitment and dedication to the sport of fencing by working to start and continue the fencing team at his high school.  I think his passion for the sport and personal character are both evident through this endeavor, as well.”

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