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Sister Act at the Absolute Fencing Gear® Korfanty World Cup

05/02/2013, 6:15pm CDT
By Nicole Jomantas

Gracie and Eliza Stone at the Div I Nationals with their Princeton Coach Hristo Hristov.

(Chicago, Ill.) – Born just three years apart, Eliza and Gracie Stone (Chicago, Ill.) have spent their fencing careers together and will compete on the international stage this weekend in front of a hometown crowd at the Absolute Fencing Gear® Korfanty World Cup at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Twenty-two-year-old Eliza and 19-year-old Gracie began fencing saber 12 years ago when their father saw a flyer for a local club at a pizza parlor and signed the sisters and their brother Robert, now 21, up for classes.

“I was actually doing a lot of ballet at the time since my oldest sister, Katie, was a dancer and I idolized her, but my dad was looking for a sport for my brother who didn't like any of the ‘regular’ sports like soccer or basketball,” Gracie said. “I remember I had a vague sense of it being a renaissance fair and outside, so I wore a very silly dress to my first practice. I absolutely hated it because it wasn't dancing, but I was a very frugal 7-year-old, and so my dad told me that he'd pre-paid for a year. By the end of the year, I decided to stop dancing and keep fencing.”

Since then, the sport has led the Stone trio to Princeton where Eliza won the NCAA title as a senior in April and Gracie placed third. The sisters also played a key role in helping Princeton win its first ever combined team title.

“We were homeschooled together and we’ve trained together, so we had to learn to get along or else we were going to kill each other,” Eliza laughed. “We helped each other with school and we were competitive that way, so we kept each other going and then we all got into Princeton, thank goodness, so we’ve kind of helped each other along in many ways.”

In addition to traveling to domestic and NCAA events together, both Eliza and Gracie made their first forays onto the European World Cup circuit this season.

Gracie made a last-minute decision to enter her first Junior World Cup in Udine, Italy, in January and came home with gold while Eliza joined the Senior World Cup circuit and seventh in Antalya and 14th at the Orleans Grand Prix.

After winning the NCAAs in April, the sisters both competed at the USA Fencing Division I National Championships where Gracie was eliminated in the table of 16, but came back to the strip to coach her older sister to her first gold medal.

“It’s good to know that it’s my sister helping me so it’s not just a coach. It’s family. It’s a good feeling. Just having her fencing at Div I with me has been great because she has also blossomed this year and I’m just glad she’s been able to go to all the tournaments. And now, at the end of the year and the end of the season she’s there coaching me at the Div I finals and it’s comforting,” said Eliza who returned to USA Fencing events this season after taking two years off to focus on collegiate tournaments. “It’s been a roller coaster year for both of us and we’ve been together with that. Gracie has also blossomed this year and I’m just glad she’s been able to go to all the tournaments and have the success she’s had.”

While both sisters have fenced at the same tournament countless times, this will be their first international event together and Gracie said her older sister’s presence always gives her a boost.

“It really helps me if Eliza is fencing in the same competition. It's almost as if we're not allowed to lose to anyone until we meet each other. She's always so successful that it becomes a little bit contagious. She definitely makes me a better fencer,” Gracie said.

Eliza, whose #4 ranking in the nation makes her a top candidate for the Senior World Team when the squad is named at the end of the month, has fenced in the quarter-finals of a World Cup and said she is both excited and nervous about fencing in front of a hometown crowd.

“It will be either really great or really stressful because my family’s going to be there watching me and I’m not going to want to let them down. On the flip side, I won’t have to get used to the time change and my family will be there to support me so there’s a positive on that end too. It’s my town, so I want to defend my turf,” Eliza laughed.

While many fencers take a while to adjust to the international scene, Eliza attributes her quick success to not knowing her opponents.

“Basically, when I got to the World Cups I was like ‘I don’t know who any of you guys are,’ so I didn’t know who to be afraid of. So I just sort of relaxed and fenced my hardest and was able to forget everything besides that,” Eliza said.

Although Gracie joked that “there’s going to be a lot of great coaches there, so I may be out of a coaching job,” she said that her family always shares in each sibling’s success – regardless of who comes out with the best result.

“We absolutely share our successes and sometimes we even fence the same opponents at tournaments, and can help each other out that way, by giving advice right off the strip,” Gracie said. “We’ve been fencing each other on and off for over 10 years, and we've grown up together. So, we can tell what the other one is going through. We know our weaknesses and our strengths, and can tell if the other is nervous.”

Be sure to watch as the Stones and all 60 members of the U.S. team take on nearly 300 fencers from 32 countries at the UIC Flames Athletic Center.

General admission tickets are still available online at www.sabreworldcup.com and at the door for $5 per day.

Competition schedule is as follows:

Friday, May 3 (Physical Education Building)
9 a.m.
Women’s Individual Pool Rounds and Preliminary Tables

1 p.m.
Men’s Individual Pool Rounds and Preliminary Tables

Saturday, May 4 (Flames Athletic Center)
9 a.m.
Women’s Individual Direct Elimination Table of 64 – Quarter-finals

1:40 p.m.
Men’s Individual Direct Elimination Table of 64 – Quarter-finals

6:30 p.m.
Men’s and Women’s Individual Semifinal and Final and Final Rounds

Sunday, May 5 (Flames Athletic Center)
8:20 a.m.
Women’s Team Direct Elimination Tables

Noon
Men’s Team Direct Elimination Tables

6 p.m.
Men’s and Women’s Bronze and Gold Medal Matches

Tag(s): News  Eliza Stone