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February Athlete Spotlight: Race Imboden

02/16/2012, 6:39am CST
By No Author

Eighteen-year-old Race Imboden (Brooklyn, N.Y.) won his first Senior World Cup medal at the Paris Foil World Cup on Jan. 29 and is now ranked eighth in the world after placing eighth at his first Senior World Championships in October as well. While training in Italy for his next World Cup in Spain this weekend, Imboden took time out to answer questions on defeating a four-time World Champion; what it would be like to compete at the Olympic Games in his mother’s home country; and being a DJ when he’s not on the fencing strip…

Q: So what was it like winning your first World Cup medal?

A: Well, there are really no words to describe it.  I have been emanating to go to this tournament for years now.  I have always known the CIP to be the grandest oldest and most prestigious World Cups on the world circuit.  To get to compete there was a thrill enough and then to medal was above and beyond.

Q: You came in as the 11th seed and didn’t have to fence on Friday for the first time. What was that like?

A: It was a good feeling knowing that I had competed well up to this point, but it was also a little nerve raking that I was now the guy being chased.  I was the one people want to upset and knock out.  But, overall, was proud to be in the top 16 and ready for the challenge.

Q: How was it being on the podium with Alexander?

A: First, let me say that Alex fenced amazingly.  I have been competing with him for now seems like forever.  He's always out there laying it on the line and my hat’s off to him.  Being up there with him was a great feeling.  It wasn't so much about me or him but how our country is perceived in the sport.  To have two guys in the final means something. It's putting the U.S. Men’s Foil Team on the map.  We are not the underdogs anymore. We are team of young strong fencers all with capability of winning on any day.  We are making a name for ourselves now.

Q: Do you think you had an edge on [four-time Senior World Champion Peter] Joppich going into the quarter bout because you won your bout against him at the Worlds last year?

A: I wouldn't say that I had the edge on him because I beat him in Catania.  I would say I was a little bit looser this time because I had just been in the same high pressure situation with him.  But to say I have the upper hand on a guy who has competed at this event more times than I can count and won it? I don't think I can say that.  I just had to step on the strip open minded and ready and that’s what i did.

Q: What was it like fencing [reigning World Champion] Andrea Cassara in the semis?

A: He's number one in the World and has been fencing really well.  I am not saying that is any reason I should be content with the loss, because I'm not. The fact of the matter is it’s a loss.  In that match he had me.  I walked away learning a lot from the bout and next time I step on the strip with him it will be a clean slate.

Q: I’m not sure if you looked at the new World Rankings after Paris, but you're now #8... Is it exciting to be in the top 10 or are you more focused on the next event?

A: It feels great to be ranked highly in the world standings, but to me there’s much more to it than that. There’s a lot of work still ahead.  This is only the first time I’ve ever been ranked in the top ten. It’s great, but I’m in it for the long haul and I think consistency at the highest level is what really makes a champion.  So for me, I’m always focusing on the next competition.  It’s an accomplishment for sure, but now’s definitely not the time to get complacent.

Q: In the last year, you've gone from making your first senior team to being eighth in the world... A lot of people would just be excited to qualify for their first senior team at 18, but you've always been crystal clear that you're in this for a medal not just to be along for the ride... Where does that confidence come from and how do you avoid being intimidated in high pressure situations?

A: Wow, I’m not quite sure.  I guess it’s my nature.  I have always been a competitor.  I go out there and I want to win - period.  I can’t say that I have always been successful pulling it out on top in high pressure situations, but I do enjoy the pressure.  I think for me, the times when I’m enjoying fencing most are the times I have the opportunity to compete on the biggest stage with a large audience.  I love being in those situations.  When I have the chance to step up against a great competitor, in the spotlight, knowing that it’ll be a hard match, it really gets me pumped.  When the pressure’s on, I always keep in mind that my job is to focus on what I need to do, not the other guy and certainly not what’s going on off the strip.

Q: So you've committed to Notre Dame, but you're taking the year off to prepare for the Olympics. Was that a hard decision?

It was a very hard decision.  I am a city kid. I grew up in Brooklyn, and while Notre Dame isn’t exactly the big city, I felt very at home there.  Notre Dame really does have a family spirit.  The thing with ND is that they value excellence.  For sure excellence in the classroom, but excellence in sport as well.  It’s in the Notre Dame DNA.  For me, going somewhere that people understand my passion and will help me succeed in the goals I have set means a lot.  It’s the same whether it’s fencing, football, hockey or calculus.  I figured that I may only have one chance in my life to train like a professional, and making a gap year something productive like this was supported by everyone – my parents, my coach, Jed Dupree, Coach Gia Kvaratskhelia and everyone else at Notre Dame.  The support has been great and I really appreciate it.

Q: What's one thing people would be surprised to know about you?

Something people would be surprised to know about me…. I’m not really the type of person to keep anything hidden.  I kind of wear everything on my sleeve.  I am spending time around my training getting into music.  I am a DJ and love creating my own mixes and I am taking an internship with an indie record label, Fool’s Gold, because I am really interested in the business side of entertainment.

Q: You've travelled around the world a lot, obviously. What's been your favorite country? And how many countries have you been to anyway?

Off the top of my head, I can say 14 countries for sure, but I’m sure I’m missing a few.  For my favorite, I think it would have to be a tie between England and the south of France for me.  I have been to the UK a lot because I have family there and there are always competitions there, too, so I definitely have a connection to Britain.  But the South of France is really beautiful and quiet and I have always enjoyed my time there.  Definitely a tie.

Q: When we talked in Portland, you mentioned how supportive your parents have been. Your mother's British and you have family over there, what would it be like to have your first Olympic Games be in London?

I could not have done anything in fencing, or anything else in life, without the support of my parents.  I really can’t say it enough; they have been there with me every step of the way.  Not pushing me, but letting me develop my passion on my own, supporting me, working extremely hard and sacrificing on their part to help me succeed. Thanks Mum and Dad! As far as 2012, going to any Olympic Games would be unbelievable.  Since I was 11-years-old, and watching the 2004 Athens Team and my future coach Jed Dupree, I wanted to be an Olympic athlete.  But the possibility of going to my first Games in London is definitely special.  It’s cool because my Mum is from England and she very proud that her country is hosting.  It would definitely just be the icing on the cake if I were to make it.


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