(Colorado Springs, Colo.) – The U.S. Paralympic Fencing Team will leave for the Paralympic Games in London on Thursday.
Team USA will train in London prior to the start of competition which will be held from Sept. 4-6.
Six U.S. fencers will represent Team USA at the Paralympic Games in London and, for the first time ever, an American wheelchair fencer will enter the Games ranked as #3 in the world.
Twenty-five-year-old Ryan Estep (Florence, Miss.) qualified for London with his gold medal win in the Category B epee event at the Pan Am Wheelchair Championships in Sao Paulo in 2011.
Just two years after being introduced to the sport, Estep found himself on the road to the Paralympic Games and now he has a new goal – reaching the medal stand.
Estep came one step closer to his goal in October when he advanced to the quarter-finals of the Wheelchair World Championships in Catania, Italy.
In April, Estep reached another milestone when he won a silver medal at the Montreal Wheelchair World Cup.
Estep credits Paralympic Coach Les Stawicki (Louisville, Ky.) with much of his rapid success.
“There is no way I would have been able to do close to what I’ve done with just picking up a sword for the first time, not knowing what fencing was three years ago, to being No. 3 in the world. There’s no way I would have been able to accomplish that without him,” Estep said.
Estep will be joined in London by three Paralympic veterans.
A retired Air Force staff sergeant, Mario Rodriguez (Port Hueneme, Calif.) will be fencing in his fourth Paralympic Games after competing in 1996, 2000 and 2004.
Although he has fenced all three weapons during his Paralympic career, Rodriguez will specialize in Category A foil in London.
Three-time Paralympian Gerard Moreno (Los Angeles, Calif.) will compete in his fourth Games in the Category B foil event.
Gary Van Der Wege (Kyle, Texas) took a break from competing after the 2004 Games, but returned to international competition in 2011 when he won gold at the Pan Am Zonals in Category A epee to earn his trip to London.
Sixteen-year-old Catherine Bouwkamp (Fishers, Ind.) is the youngest member of Team USA, but the former able-bodied saber fencer is determined to make her mark in her Category A foil event.
While his teammates each qualified for London at the Zonals, Joey Brinson’s primary event, Category B saber, wasn’t contested in Sao Paulo.
Due to lack of numbers, the event wasn’t held and the Florence, Miss. native was forced to qualify through the world rankings.
By the end of the World Cup season, however, Brinson had accumulated enough points to earn Team USA’s final position and is now focused on earning a top finish for Team USA in London.
Team USA is coached by Stawicki and assistant coach Julio Diaz (Lilburn, Ga.) Ginny Boydston (Jackson, Miss.) is serving as team leader at her first Paralympic Games and Scott Harkey (Shreveport, La.) has been named as the team armorer.
Competition will be held at the ExCeL Center – the same facility that was used by fencers during the Olympic Games.
The competition schedule is as follows:
Tuesday, Sept. 4
Men’s Category A and B Foil
Women’s Category A and B Foil
Wednesday, Sept. 5
Men’s Category A and B Epee
Women’s Category A and B Foil
Thursday, Sept. 6
Men’s Category A and B Saber
The full team roster is as follows:
Women’s Category A Foil
Cat Bouwkamp (Fishers, Ind.)
Men’s Category A Foil
Mario Rodriguez (Port Hueneme, Calif.)
Men’s Category B Foil
Gerard Moreno (Los Angeles, Calif.)
Men’s Category A Epee
Gary Van Der Wege (Kyle, Texas)
Men’s Category B Epee
Ryan Estep (Florence, Miss.)
Men’s Category B Saber
Joey Brinson (Florence, Miss.)