Cat Bouwkamp Captures Bronze at Wheelchair World Cup
By Anthony Bartkowski
Three-weapon fencing phenom Catherine Bouwkamp of Fishers, Ind., led Team USA at the 9th Wheelchair Fencing World Cup by winning the bronze medal in the sabre division. Competing in her first international event ever, she became the first U.S. woman to ever medal at a Wheelchair World Cup. Bouwkamp, a 13 year old eighth-grader at Riverside Junior High School, worked her magic against older athletes during the event in Warsaw, Poland.
"Maestro (Les) Stawicki informed us of the Wheelchair World Cup in Poland and it would be good to get our names out into the fencing community," Bouwkamp said.
Bouwkamp outlasted Magda Miszczyk of Poland in the opening round of the sabre division 15-11, before dropping a close match to eventual champion Irina Vidrashko of Russia, 15-7. Vidrashko defeated Anastasya Pavolova of Russia, 15-13, to win the gold medal.
"At first it was unreal and I was the youngest," said Bouwkamp. "Sabre is where I feel at home and I just let my instincts take over."
A host of countries were present for the three-day competition, which was started in 2001 by the International Wheelchair Fencing Committee. Teams from Russia, Poland, Canada, Germany, Hungary, Bulgaria, France, Greece, Italy, Spain, Great Britain and Belarus competed. All athletes earned valuable ranking points towards qualification for the 2010 World Championships in Paris, France.
Bouwkamp, who has only fenced from a wheelchair for the last six months, brought five years worth of experience from the able-body side while competing for the Indy Sabre Fencing Club in Indianapolis. She is now one to watch out for on the international scene as she is continuing to sharpen her wheelchair techniques.
"She is a young person and is very promising," said Stawicki, the U.S. National Coach for wheelchair fencing. "When she has a little more experience in the chair, she can probably win this event."
The energetic kid is coached by Val Kizik of Indianapolis, and travels to Louisville, Ky., on a regular basis for instruction from Stawicki. Bouwkamp has her eyes on the 2012 Paralympic Games in London, as well as other international tournaments.
"I would like to end up in London in 2012," said Bouwkamp. "I'm hoping to make my name well known at other competitions as well."
Cat will have surgery in early November that will leave her sidelined from national competitions for a few months that includes the North American Cup in Pittsburgh and an international event in Germany in January.
She looks to return for the 2010 Summer Nationals and the 2010 Wheelchair Fencing World Championships. The International Wheelchair Fencing Committee rankings were released Thursday and Cat is ranked 6th in the sabre division.
"There aren't many events nationally," Bouwkamp said. "I hope to be back to wheelchair fencing in a couple months."
***Editor's Note: Thank you to Carol Hickey for reminding us of the past and current success of the men and women representing US Fencing at National and International wheelchair competitions.