Veronica Mika (right) fences Helen Wu in the finals of Cadet Women's Saber at the October 2022 NAC. (Photo by Serge Timacheff)
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — They’ll travel to Utah from three dozen different states. They’ll compete in their chosen weapon — epee, foil or saber. And they’ll wear the flag of the United States or one of the 26 other countries represented at the tournament.
But even though they’ll take different paths to the December 2022 North American Cup in Salt Lake City, all will have one thing in mind: winning gold.
Some 1,922 fencers from across the country and around the world will gather inside the Salt Palace Convention Center for the December NAC — the final major national fencing tournament of 2022.
The December NAC is one of seven national fencing tournaments hosted in the 2022-23 season by USA Fencing, the national governing body for the Olympic and Paralympic sport of fencing in the United States.
The tournament in Salt Lake City will feature 18 events, including competition for women and men in all three fencing weapons (epee, foil and saber) and these three fencing divisions:
Division I, which includes many of the top-ranked fencers age 13 and older
Junior, for fencers 19 and under
Cadet, for fencers 16 and under
The stakes are high for all classifications of fencers. Fencers who perform well in Salt Lake City will earn valuable points toward qualifying for major international competitions, including the 2023 Junior & Cadet Fencing World Championships in Bulgaria and the 2023 Fencing World Championships in Italy. A fencer who wins gold at one of those tournaments gets the right to call themselves a world champion.
One group of fencers scheduled to compete in Salt Lake City knows quite well what it takes to make it to the sport’s biggest stage. The field of competitors at the December NAC includes four Olympians — each of whom represented Team USA at the Tokyo Games:
Sabrina Massialas OLY, Division I Women’s Foil — competing Dec. 9
Curtis McDowald OLY, Division I Men’s Epee — competing Dec. 9
Yeisser Ramirez OLY, Division I Men’s Epee — competing Dec. 9
Andrew Mackiewicz OLY, Division I Men’s Saber — competing Dec. 12
The average age across all 1,922 fencers is 17.5 — with the competitors ranging in age from an 11-year-old competing in the Cadet Women’s Foil event to a 65-year-old competing in Division I Men’s Epee.
The tournament field includes 11 fencers from the state of Utah, including several athletes from the same successful fencing family. Julie Seal of Ogden, Utah, is the reigning world champion in Vet-50 Women’s Saber. She earned a hard-won gold at the 2022 Veteran Fencing World Championships in Croatia, an event for the world’s best fencers aged 50 and older.
Seal will be competing at the December NAC alongside three of her children — 14-year-old Cameron Seal, 17-year-old Maximus Seal and 19-year-old Grace Seal. Grace Seal also fences at the collegiate level for Penn State University.
“Utah is not exactly the center of the fencing world,” Julie Seal says. “Usually we are busy traveling to California or some state on the eastern side of the country for these elite-level events. We are thrilled to have the opportunity to compete right in our own backyard and possibly expose a wider local audience to the unparalleled sport of fencing.”
Julie Seal has fenced for more than 30 years, beginning at Brigham Young University just 45 minutes down the road from the Salt Palace. And like many who started fencing decades ago, she remains passionate about the sport that has taken her around the world.
“It is an unbelievable gift to me that I will have the opportunity to compete right alongside my children,” she says. “For us, it’s truly the family business. All five of my kids, my husband, and my son-in-law fence. We feel incredibly blessed to be a part of such an amazing worldwide community. We hope everyone will have a chance to drop by the Salt Palace and check it out.”
In addition to her continuing competitive career, Julie Seal owns the Valkyrie Fencing Club in Pleasant Grove, Utah. She has coached more than 25 national gold medalists — and counting.
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