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Q&A with Alexander Massialas - Team USA's Youngest Male Olympian

07/23/2012, 12:00pm CDT
By Nicole Jomantas

Alexander Massialas. Photo Credit: U.S. Olympic Committee

(London, Great Britain) – Most high school seniors are focusing on starting college in the fall, but 18-year-old Alexander Massialas (San Francisco, Calif.) had another piece of the puzzle to juggle in addition to filling out applications and preparing for graduation – qualification for the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team as not just the youngest male fencer at the Games, but the youngest U.S. athlete from any sport.

Massialas did just that in February when he followed a bronze medal finish at the Paris World Cup – his second career medal at a Senior World Cup event – with a top-eight result in La Coruna, Spain.

The result was one step short of a medal, but, more importantly, it gave the two-time Cadet World Champion enough ranking points to qualify for the U.S. Olympic Team alongside his father Greg Massialas (San Francisco, Calif.) who will coach the U.S. Men’s Foil Team as a three-time Olympian himself.

In a world where Olympic Trials are watched by Americans every summer, Alexander said that his moment was much less dramatic than the highlights on television.

“I was just sitting in the hotel lobby checking my e-mail in Spain and my dad said ‘Congratulations, Alexander’ and I was like ‘On what?’ I finished top eight, so that was ok, but I didn’t know what he was congratulating me for until he said ‘You just made the Olympic Team,’” Alexander laughed when asked about the moment he knew he qualified for Team USA – a process that is determined based on an athlete’s U.S. ranking.

Shortly before leaving for London, Alexander learned that he was not only the youngest male athlete on the fencing team, but the youngest man on the entire U.S. Olympic Team…

Q: How does it feel to be the youngest male athlete on the entire U.S. Olympic Team?

It's a cool feeling to be the youngest male athlete on the U.S. Team, but I still have to prove myself here as well. It doesn't mean anything to be young here if you're not able to compete with the top guys for a medal. Though I'm young, I still want to be pushing ahead and proving to everyone, and myself, that my youth doesn't mean I can't compete with the best fencers in the world.

Q: Do you think you view the Olympics any differently as an 18-year-old than someone who's 25?

I think that I have to treat the Olympics the same as anyone else. Though it is my first Olympics and something I've dreamed about even before my fencing career had started, I need to treat these Games the same as anyone else if I want to be successful. I've done well enough to put myself in this position, now I have to go out and make it happen.

Q: The entire men's foil team is all very young. You’re 18.  Your teammate, Race Imboden is 19 and the second youngest athlete on Team USA and all of you are still in college. How do you think the competition views you?  Does that drive you guys as a group?

I don't think the age really gets to us. As a team, or at least from what I can see, we all just go out and try to fence our hardest. We all think that we can compete with an older and more experienced field of competitors, and we've shown it through our results. Our drive comes from us wanting to do our best, and being the young guys trying to knock out the guys in our prime just makes us want it even more.

Q: You made your first Senior World Team at 15, but when did it sink in that you could become an Olympian at this Games rather than down the road?

To be honest, if you asked me if I was going to make my first Olympic team in 2012 four years ago, I probably would've said no.  At the time of Beijing, I was still fourteen and had just made my first Cadet World Team and was just starting to really to do some Junior World Cups as well so I had a hard time believing I could be the next one even though Gerek [Meinhardt – Team USA’s replacement athlete in the team event] was 18 when he competed in Beijing. Once I started the senior circuit and broke through with some good results my first year, that's when I thought I had a chance. I still remember the turning point in the 2009 Paris World Cup. It was my third Senior World Cup ever and once I broke through the top 16 I remember saying to myself: ‘I actually have a shot at this. I can make the Olympic Team.’ Then I went on to make the Senior, Junior and Cadet World Teams that year.

Q: You're going to be a freshman at Stanford...  Are you living in the dorms?  And when you meet people down the hall and they start conversations about what everybody did over summer break, will you work in "well, I wasn't around for most of the summer, cause I was at the Olympics and all..."

(Laughs) Yes. I will be living in the dorms at Stanford next year though there are plenty of impressive people at Stanford as well. As far as Olympians go, if Stanford had competed independently at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, they would have finished ninth. With other Olympians that competed without getting a medal and so many more scholars that are going on to start big companies, make breakthroughs in medical and scientific research, I'll only be one in a huge group of people following their dreams.

Q: What are your expectations for your first Games?

Ideally, I want a gold medal – maybe two with team. When I was about three or four years old – way before I started fencing, I remember seeing all my dad's Olympic apparel, photos, rings, etc. I may not have understood the grandeur of the Olympics but I remember telling him right then:  ‘Hey, I'm going to be an Olympic Champion one day.’ It may be an ambitious goal, but you have to dream big if you want to do big things.


Tag(s): News  Alexander Massialas