LOUISVILLE, Ky. — It’s not so much the medals or the thrill that comes from scoring that decisive touch when a bout is tied at 9.
For Julie Seal (Valkyrie Fencing Club), the real magic of fencing lies in the person it’s helped her become.
In accepting her award for Vet 50 Fencer of the Year, Seal told the rapt crowd that “I became me because of fencing.”
"Because of fencing, I traveled the world, learned courage and how to survive on nothing, slept on airport floors, received generosity and had the opportunity to be generous,” she said. “I met some of my very best friends — and even some amazing enemies. They’ll come around.”
Seal’s remarks were part of a memorable evening at the Veterans Committee Awards Dinner, held Jan. 7 during the January North American Cup in Louisville, Ky. The night offered Veteran fencers a chance to celebrate their successes, present awards and reconnect with cherished friends.
Valerie Asher (DC Fencers Club), who chairs the Veterans Committee, helped organize the event alongside USA Fencing Senior Director of Development Jill Grotzinger.
“I love honoring our history and recognizing what our Vet fencers have achieved,” Asher says. “And I believe that hearing their stories will inspire the next generation of Vet fencers to do great things in our sport.”
It’s hard not to be inspired by the efforts of the night’s three Veteran Fencer of the Year Award recipients — an honor given in recognition of athletic excellence during the most recent season. The honorees were:
Vet 70: Linda Dunn (IndySabre and Indianapolis Fencing Club): Silver medalist at the 2022 Veteran World Championships
Vet 60: Mark Lundborg (Washington Fencing Academy): Gold medalist at the 2022 Veteran World Championships
Vet 50: Julie Seal (Valkyrie Fencing Club): Gold medalist at the 2022 Veteran World Championships
A trio of Lifetime Achievement Awards also were presented to Veteran fencers whose achievements extend across many seasons. These awards also consider contributions to the fencing community beyond their individual results on the strip. These honorees were:
Bruno Goossens (Oregon): Member of seven Veteran World Teams, gold medalist in both individual and team, N1 rated national referee
Judith Offerle (RedStar Fencing Club): Member of 16 Veteran World Teams, multiple individual and team medals from world championships, N1 referee in Epee, N2 referee in foil
Delia Turner (Delaware Valley Fencers Club): Member of 14 Veteran World Teams, has earned gold medals at Veteran World Championships in all three age categories as well as numerous other individual and team medals.
In accepting her award, Turner shined the spotlight back on those who have supported her each step of the way.
“It’s been a lot of fun competing, and medals are great,” she says, “but the most fun is encouraging other people. I really believe ‘you can’t keep it unless you give it away.’”
Other observations from a joyful night:
The Veteran Committee introduced two of its newest members, Creston Pat Bailey and Kate Sierra, to the larger community.
Rita Comes and Asher recognized some of the grassroots efforts that make the Vet fencing community so great:
Sharon Gordon and Trish Brown for the Veteran Women’s Sunday night Zoom that began during COVID
Coach David Sierra for creating training camps for Veteran Saber
Michael Bacon for his work on the Tri-State Veterans Circuit
Walter Dragonetti for bringing the Vet Epee community together for his Labor Day Weekend fencing marathons
Patricia Wilkens for her tireless efforts to recruit new Veterans to the sport
The fun in Veteran fencing is only beginning.
This October, the USA will host the 2023 Veteran Fencing World Championships in Dayton Beach, Fla.
“The Veterans Committee looks forward to the opportunity to show the world the strength and energy of our community,” Asher says. “Please help us make this an amazing event — make a donation, volunteer and come to cheer!
Check out an album of photos from the night on our Facebook page.
Help support Team USA's Veteran Fencers through a gift to the U.S. Fencing Foundation.
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