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March 2023 NAC Day 4 Recap: Julie Xiao of Canada Finds Success With a Little Help From a Substitute Strip Coach

03/06/2023, 8:00pm CST
By Bryan Wendell

In the Cadet Women’s Saber finals on Monday, the Canadian asked her friend and fellow saber fencer to be her strip coach — a collaborative end to the 2023 Parafencing National Championships and March North American Cup, held in Fort Worth, Texas.

Julie Xiao (Canada — Align Fencing Club) with her friend and fill-in strip coach Dagny Johnson (Rochester Fencing Club). (Photo by Serge Timacheff)

FORT WORTH, TEXAS — Strip coaching takes careful planning, years of practice and a keen awareness of knowing exactly what to say and when to say it.

Or, counterpoint: Sometimes it takes a good and talented friend.

Julie Xiao (Canada — Align Fencing Club) employed the latter approach in the Cadet Women’s Saber finals on Monday, asking friend and fellow saber fencer Dagny Johnson (Rochester Fencing Club) to fill in as her strip coach.

“Shoutout to my strip coach, Dagny Johnson, for helping me when my coach wasn't here,” Xiao says. “Because she's one of my really good friends, she understands me really well. Like, for example, if I'm losing, and I get really stressed about a point, she tells me to calm down. Like, it's OK. And that just really helps.”

Xiao, who has been successful at tournaments on both sides of the U.S.-Canada border, says she enjoys competing in the United States because of the caliber of competitors who compete at USA Fencing-hosted tournaments.

Other than U.S. championship events, which are open to U.S. citizens only, anyone is welcome to compete in events like a North American Cup. Many fencers from Canada and other countries enjoy the opportunity to fence at some of the largest and best-run tournaments in the world.

“Fencing all the high-level fencers challenges me to fence better,” she says. “It improves my own fencing abilities.”

There were plenty of high-level fencers around on the fourth and final day at the 2023 Parafencing National Championships and March North American Cup, held in Fort Worth, Texas.

That list includes Natalya Cafasso (Olympia Fencing Center), who grabbed her first NAC gold with a win in Cadet Women’s Epee.

“I definitely was not expecting this,” she says. “I’ve been training every day for pretty much the past year.”

That preparation showed in the gold medal bout, where equipment problems caused several lengthy delays. Refusing to let that distract her, Cafasso stayed with her game plan of patience, tempo and distance.

“I tried not to think about [the delay],” she says. “I tried to think forward and just start where I stopped.”

Richard Li (Star Fencing Academy) has been trying to think forward, too. He’s been trying to overcome a mental block that, he says, kept him from reaching the top of the medal stand.

“I think I kind of got over it because I discussed it a lot with my coaches,” he says. “And then overall, I had a lot of support from my friends back at the club. My teammates and the entire atmosphere definitely helped with that mental block.”

And with the gold medal around his neck, what advice does Li have for other fencers struggling to reach their goals?

“Work hard on yourself and be confident in your ability to beat your opponent,” he says. “And overall, just be yourself when you're fencing and don't get too tied up with results like I did.”

Full Day 4 Results

Cadet Women's Epee

Gold: Natalya Cafasso (Olympia Fencing Center)

Silver: Elizabeth Zigalo (New York Fencing Academy)

Bronze: Alexandra Rakhovski (New York Fencing Academy)

Bronze: Ziqi (Yoyo) Wang (Swords Fencing Studio)

5: Hania Hafeez (Vivo Fencing Club)

6: Avni Shiv (Alliance Fencing Academy)

7: Melinda Yao (Alliance Fencing Academy)

8: Ana Beckman (Windy City Fencing-Chicago)


Cadet Women's Saber

Gold: Julie Xiao (Canada — Align Fencing Club)

Silver: Marley I. Kim (Manhattan Fencing Center)

Bronze: Natalie Tsui (Manhattan Fencing Center)

Bronze: Carina Festa (Bergen Fencing Club)

5: Trisha Nath (Bergen Fencing Club)

6: Ruth Mund (Stamford Fencing Center LLC)

7: Reya Ghayalod (Durkan Fencing Academy)

8: Angelina Tse (Halberstadt Fencers' Club)


Cadet Men's Foil

Gold: Richard Li (Star Fencing Academy)

Silver: Jacob J Lee (Gutkovskiy Fencing Academy)

Bronze: Aiden Siu (SoCAL Fencing Center)

Bronze: Nickolas Rusadze (Tim Morehouse Fencing Club (Port Chester))

5: Steven A. Miall (Moe Fencing Club LLC)

6: Julian Goor (Massialas Foundation (M Team))

7: Justice Cullivan (Columbus Fencing And Fitness LLC)

8: Akhil Lewis (Top Fencing Club)


Y10 Women's Foil

Gold: Chenchu Zhou (Canada)

Silver: Sienna Cullivan (Columbus Fencing and Fitness LLC)

Bronze: Nadia Yacobucci (Fencing Sports Academy Inc.)

Bronze: Charlotte Bing (Star Fencing Academy)

5: Sophie Duan (Team Touche Fencing Center)

6: Joanna Wang (Mid-Island Fencing Academy / V Fencing Club)

7: Hailey Cashman (Heartland Fencing Academy)

8: Ada Salmi-Bydalek (Youth Enrichment League Fencing Club)


Y10 Men's Epee

Gold: Shawn Zhou (LA International Fencing / Team Touche Fencing Center)

Silver: Daniel M. Dodin (New York Fencing Academy)

Bronze: Aidan Song (Olympia Fencing Center)

Bronze: Reuben Geva (Alliance Fencing Academy)

5: Fletcher Mazaheri (Bluegrass Fencers' Club)

6: Artur Danilov (New York Fencing Academy)

7: Tristan Yao (True Focus Sports Academy)

8: Michael Tang (Academy of Fencing Masters (AFM))


Y10 Men's Saber

Gold: Miles Chambers (Tim Morehouse Fencing Club)

Silver: Jeremy Kang (Halberstadt Fencers' Club)

Bronze: Ian Yu (Lone Star Fencing Center)

Bronze: Viktor Greenstein (LA International Fencing)

5: Johnny Hao (Southern California Fencing Academy (SOCALFA))

6: Andrew Gu (LA Fencing Academy of Pomona)

7: Hagan Hwang (LA Fencing Academy of Pomona)

8: Roman Grigoriev (Premier Fencing Academy LLC)


Day 4 Photo Album

Explore all the Day 4 photos in this Facebook album.

Tag(s): Latest News  March 2023 NAC