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USA Fencing Selects Fourth Quarter Fencing Spirit of Sport Recipients

06/08/2021, 2:30pm CDT
By Kristen Henneman

(Colorado Springs, Colo.) – USA Fencing is pleased to announce the 2020-21 season’s fourth group of recipients for the Spirit of Sport Recognition Program, recognizing six members of the fencing community who have exemplified outstanding dedication to the sport and are an inspiration to others.

New for the 2020-21 season, each quarter, one recipient from each region is chosen based on the USA Fencing core values of excellence, respect, teamwork, inclusion and passion.

The six recipients for the first quarter’s Spirit of Sport Award are as follows:

  • Michael McTigue (Beaverton, Ore. / Northwest Fencing Center)
  • Justice Cullivan (Lewis Center, Ohio / Columbus Fencing and Fitness)
  • Tony Whelan (North Cambridge, Mass. / Olympia Fencing Center)
  • David Bording (San Jose, Calif. / Cardinal Fencing Club)
  • Audrey Toffelmire (Houston, Texas / International Academy for Fencing Education)
  • Chelsea Hu (Vienna, Va. / AIC Fencing Club)

All selections will receive a USA Fencing Spirit of Sport t-shirt and bag tag.

In addition, for the third straight season, USA Fencing will honor one annual Spirit of Sport winner. In the upcoming weeks, a selection committee will name the top selection in each region as well as one wildcard choice from the pool of 24 winners named throughout the season. The fencing community will then select the winner from the final seven in an online vote available to the entire USA Fencing membership.

The overall winner will receive a trophy and will be honored at this year’s National Championships and July Challenge in Philadelphia, Pa.

More information on each of the winners can be found below:

Region 1: Michael McTigue (Beaverton, Ore.)

Club: Northwest Fencing Center
Age: 64
Weapon: Epee
Nominated By: Howcy Taylor (Parent of a Student at the Club)

The COVID-19 pandemic caused many fencing clubs incredible difficulty, including Northwest Fencing Center. And, in a time of need, Michael McTigue stepped up for his club. A coach at Northwest Fencing Center, McTigue selflessly gave his time to ensure the club survived and stayed operational during the pandemic after losing their executive director unexpectedly. In addition to running the club, he continued to seek grants, doing whatever he could to help the club.

“Michael is not only a wonderful coach, he is a generous person who is selfless in his commitment and dedication to the sport, the club and our community,” Howcy Taylor said.

Region 2: Justice Cullivan (Lewis Center, Ohio)

Club: Columbus Fencing and Fitness
Age: 13
Weapon: Foil
Number of Years Involved with Fencing: Five
Nominated By: Ann Marsh-Senic (Coach at Renaissance Fencing Club)

Known for being a great teammate, Justice Cullivan is encouraging of others and helps coach the younger fencers if a coach is unavailable. But Cullivan doesn’t just support his own teammates and is helping to create a caring fencing community. Recently at an RYC, Cullivan saw a fellow fencer outside the venue who was extremely upset after losing a close match. Seeing him crying as he left, Cullivan went over and offered support, giving a compassionate and encouraging pep talk, even though the fencer wasn’t one of his own teammates.

“It was so much more helpful to have another fencer talk to him instead of a coach or parent,” said Ann Marsh-Senic, who watched Cullivan console her son. “What an empathetic, caring person.”

Region 3: Tony Whelan (North Cambridge, Mass.)

Club: Olympia Fencing Center
Age: 17
Weapon: Epee
Number of Years Involved with Fencing: Eight
Nominated By: Allison Wade (Parent of Another Fencer)

Respected by teammates, coaches and parents, Tony Whelan has a humble, unassuming nature, showing humility whether he wins or loses. Rather than focusing on the results and seeking awards and accolades, he is constantly working to improve his fencing. Fencing six days a week, Whelan is always willing to fence anyone at the club, regardless of the other fencer’s skill level, and after each bout, offers feedback to his clubmates in a kind and compassionate manner. He also works as an assistant coach and is a mentor to the beginner fencers.

“Tony exudes excellence in every aspect of the word when it comes to fencing,” Allison Wade said. “Fencing could absolutely use more Tonys — fencers who care as much about their club mates and others as he does about his own results.”

Region 4: David Bording (San Jose, Calif.)

Club: Cardinal Fencing Club
Age: 33
Weapon: N/A
Nominated By: Kathy Tsai (Parent at the club)

During the COVID-19 pandemic, David Bording has gone above and beyond for his students and their well-being. Someone who is truly passionate about fencing, Bording created a safe way for his students to continue to fence after clubs had to close their doors. He started with virtual group lessons and, as the county began to reopen, he meticulously reviewed all guidelines and began holding outdoor lessons in multiple locations. He has taken all the precautions to ensure his students and their families are safe, such as requiring masks, doing temperature checks, enforcing physical distancing and making sure hand sanitizer is available. The lessons have given his students, whose schools were virtual, an opportunity for in-person interaction and a positive outlet.

“I am confident that my high schooler is not the only who has benefited from Coach David’s lessons and everything he has done for his students during the pandemic,” Kathy Tsai said.

Region 5: Audrey Toffelmire (Houston, Texas)

Club: International Academy for Fencing Education
Age: 11
Weapon: Epee
Number of Years Involved with Fencing: Six
Nominated By: Michele Toffelmire (Mother)

Audrey Toffelmire has appreciated every moment she can fence during the COVID-19 pandemic. She has shown her determination in perservering through the challenges faced due to the pandemic, including when the only people she had to fence were her coach and older sister. During lessons, she works hard and is always respectful toward her coach. And coming back to competition, no matter the results, she has a positive attitude.

“I believe that Audrey has exemplified many of the core values of fencing during the past year,” Michele Toffelmire said.

Region 6: Chelsea Hu (Vienna, Va.)

Club: AIC Fencing Club
Age: 15
Weapon: Epee
Nominated By: Andrew Grass (Coach)

Chelsea Hu has continuously worked hard to improve her fencing since the moment she started the sport, focusing on her growth and pushing herself physically and mentally to be the best she can be. With a strong work ethic and discipline, Hu earned a bronze patch in her region in 2020 for her performances on the Regional Youth Circuit. Off the strip, Hu is someone who enjoys helping others, helping her coaches create online videos for fencers at home during the pandemic, allowing others to stay active and connected and thus elevating their mental health. She also started a fencing team at her school to introduce more people to the sport. At her club, to make quarantine productive, she organized a group of fencers to study for the referee exams in both epee and foil with 15 becoming newly certified referees.

“Chelsea is also inspired to help other fencers attain excellence,” Andrew Grass said. “At that moment, fencing was no longer about competition and rankings, but about a community of young athletes coming together to help each other to grow!”

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