Jillian Kosanovich (right) scores a touch against her Denver Fencing Center teammate Jataya Taylor. (Photo by Serge Timacheff)
MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. — Whether you call it fate or consider it luck of the draw, sometimes a fencing tournament will pit two teammates against one another.
That was the case Saturday at the October 2022 North American Cup, where the finals of Parafencing Women’s Foil saw teammates from the Denver Fencing Center square off: Jillian Kosanovich against Jataya Taylor.
It was a rematch of the previous day’s final in Parafencing Women’s Epee, with Kosanovich winning gold in each event.
Kosanovich and Taylor cheer for one another when the masks are off. But when they’re seated on opposite sides in a bout? The friendly rivalry is on.
“On the strip, you leave it all on the floor,” Kosanovich says. “Doesn't matter if you've been friends since you were children or if you just met them three months ago.”
“For me, it’s like I want to win,” she says. “But if I lose, it’s still the team winning.”
Taylor, a Marine Corps veteran who was injured in military training accidents and had her left leg amputated, started parafencing four months ago. She learned about the sport when the local veterans hospital started teaming up with the Denver Fencing Center to offer adaptive programming.
“It was open arms, open door,” Taylor says. “I do a lot of other sports. And normally, I put all my anger and frustration and everything into sports, and that you can actually see on my face. But surprisingly, fencing is fairly calming for me. I don't know if that'll change the more I learn, but it's really relaxing.”
About two and a half hours later on that same finals strip, Siobhan Sullivan (Oregon Fencing Alliance) wasn’t exactly looking relaxed. But she wasn’t looking panicked either — even when trailing in her finals bout against the talented Sophia Kovacs (University Of North Carolina–Chapel Hill / Durkan Fencing Academy).
Sullivan has become so adept at battling back — even trailing by as much as 14-8 during an international tournament last season — that her teammates call her the “Queen of Comebacks.” She refuses to admit defeat until the match is over.
“For me, it’s about not being afraid of losing,” she says. “Losing is a natural thing. And it helps you progress. So I want to take whatever I can get, and if that's losing, I'll lose. But if I can win it, and I want it I bad enough, I can do it.”
While Sullivan is no stranger to the medals stand during her fencing career, this was her first gold medal at a Division I North American Cup.
She says making that leap to Division I glory is about “realizing that you have it in yourself.”
“It's special,” she says, “but it's not anything that you can't achieve if you work hard.”
In other Saturday fencing action, Day 2 was a strong showing for fencers from Canada — a reminder that a North American Cup is truly open to all who want to test themselves against the best in the continent and the world.
Three Canadian fencers won gold on Day 2, including Yunjia Zhang in Cadet Women’s Foil, Nicholas Z. Zhang in Cadet Men’s Epee and Julia Yin in Y-14 Women’s Epee.
The day’s other gold medals were earned by William Morrill (Scarsdale Fencing Center / Fencers Club Inc.) in Cadet Men’s Saber and Tareq Alqallaf (Kuwait/Zeljkovic Fencing Academy) in Parafencing Men’s Foil.
Division I Women’s Saber
Gold: Siobhan R. Sullivan (Oregon Fencing Alliance)
Silver: Sophia Kovacs (University Of North Carolina–Chapel Hill / Durkan Fencing Academy)
Bronze: Kaitlyn Pak (Manhattan Fencing Center)
Bronze: Julia Cieslar
5th: Magda Skarbonkiewicz (Oregon Fencing Alliance)
6th: Alexandra Tzou (Sheridan Fencing Academy)
7th: Zsofia R. Walter (Duke University Fencing)
8th: Darya Andreyeva (SCAD- Atlanta Fencing / Epic Fencing Club)
Parafencing Women’s Foil
Gold: Jillian Kosanovich (Denver Fencing Center)
Silver: Jataya Taylor (Denver Fencing Center)
Bronze: Julie Grant (Salle Auriol Seattle)
Bronze: Patricia (Mama T) A. Dykes (Colorado)
Parafencing Men’s Foil
Gold: Tareq Alqallaf (Kuwait/Zeljkovic Fencing Academy)
Silver: John (Scott) S. Rodgers (Denver Fencing Center)
Bronze: Nicholas Badeaux (Fencing Institute of Texas)
Bronze: Terre Engdahl (Denver Fencing Center)
5th: Rick Swauger
Cadet Women’s Foil
Gold: Yunjia Zhang (Canada)
Silver: Emily Jing (Star Fencing Academy)
Bronze: Gabrielle Grace A. Gebala (Silicon Valley Fencing Center)
Bronze: Caterina S. Fedeli (Epic Fencing Club / SCAD- Atlanta Fencing)
5th: Allison V. Chen (Gutkovskiy Fencing Academy)
6th: Ishani S. Sood (California Fencing Academy)
7th: Alina C. Zhang (Tim Morehouse Fencing Club (Port Chester))
8th: Rachel Y. Li (Star Fencing Academy)
Cadet Men’s Epee
Gold: Nicholas Z. Zhang (Canada)
Silver: Ankith Prasad (Alliance Fencing Academy)
Bronze: Aiden Click (Apex Fencing Academy)
Bronze: Daniel Y. Lee (Elite Fencing Academy (VA) / Elite Fencing Academy (GA))
5th: Dayus T. Gohel (Olympia Fencing Center)
6th: Alexander Bezrodnov (Medeo Fencing Club)
7th: Ian C. Park (Penta Olympic Fencing Club)
8th: Caleb Su (DC Fencers Club)
Cadet Men’s Saber
Gold: William Morrill (Scarsdale Fencing Center / Fencers Club Inc.)
Silver: Taylor A. Chon (Globus Fencing Academy)
Bronze: Cody Walter Ji (Nellya Fencers)
Bronze: Samuel Zubatiy (Spartak)
5th: Matthew Chan (Advance Fencing and Fitness Academy)
6th: Justin Lee (Nazlymov Fencing Foundation / Globus Fencing Academy)
7th: Connor Woodward (Research Triangle Fencing / Nazlymov Fencing Foundation)
8th: Bryan Peng (Boston Fencing Club)
Y-14 Women’s Epee
Gold: Julia Yin (Canada)
Silver: Sierra Springer (Olympia Fencing Center)
Bronze: Catherine A. Witter (Fencing Sports Academy Inc.)
Bronze: Chloe (Cj) Tolsma (Alliance Fencing Academy)
5th: Alexandra Rakhovski (New York Fencing Academy)
6th: Phoebe C. Chisholm (Olympia Fencing Center)
7th: Melinda Yao (Alliance Fencing Academy)
8th: Angela Song (Cavalier Fencing Club)
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