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From Fencing to Hollywood and Back

06/28/2014, 11:00am CDT
By Nicole Jomantas

Jasmine McGlade with coaches Adam Maczik and Gary Copeland. Photo Credit: Nicole Jomantas

Jasmine McGlade after winning her Division IA National Championship title in Columbus. Photo Credit: Nicole Jomantas

(Columbus, Ohio) – “I can always make movies, but I can’t always fence.”

The sport of fencing has often crossed paths with Hollywood as fencers have gone on to be actors and models, directors and producers.

But rarely do you hear of an athlete work in the film industry and then return to a competitive career in any sport.

Twenty-nine-year-old film maker Jasmine McGlade (Colorado Springs, Colo.) is determined to be the exception.

A two-time Junior World Team epee fencer, McGlade was on the track to pursue a future position on an Olympic Team, but she stopped competing on the international circuit in 2003 when she enrolled as a freshman at Harvard.

After winning a team NCAA title with Harvard and individual All-American accolades, McGlade stopped fencing entirely in 2007.

“I moved away to London in the middle of my sophomore year of high school and I think that sort of broke something in me and when I got to college, college was always such a dream for me and I fell in love with film making and I had this other dream and I just told myself that I couldn’t do two things at a super high level and I think that was wrong,” McGlade said. “Maybe I was just burned out, but, basically, for years and years and years I felt like I was never supposed to retire. Every time I would hear about the Olympics, it just stirred something in me and made me totally insane. I couldn’t even look on the USFA website. I couldn’t even talk to fencer friends. I just had to block it out of my life.”

In 2012, McGlade returned to domestic competition and, in 2013, moved to Colorado Springs to train at the Olympic Training Center. Although fencing does not have a women’s epee program at the OTC, McGlade and Cassandra Bates (Colorado Springs, Colo.) serve as training partners for the modern pentathlon team.

“At some point I just realized that I have to do this. I’m going to fence for the next five years and give it everything I’ve got. I felt like I had more to do in the sport and I love it so much,” said McGlade who won gold in the Division II women’s epee event at the March North American Cup in 2013.

McGlade solidified her comeback in April when she placed eighth at the Division I National Championships.

On Tuesday, McGlade fenced at her first Summer Nationals in 12 years and took gold in the Division IA women’s epee event in Columbus.

Although she was using the competition as a tune-up event for the Division I competition at the July North American Cup later this week which will include a field of Olympians and World Team members, McGlade soon made it her mission to win gold in dominating fashion.

“I started off really nervous which is strange because I was using this event as a confidence booster and hopefully a warmup for Div I, but the goal of the day was always to, touch-by-touch, win and I was trying to focus on today, this event, meaning everything rather than futurizing in any capacity,” said McGlade who won three of her bouts by at least 10-touch margins and another at 15-7 before defeating Madeline Antekeier (Houston, Texas), 15-12, in the final. “Each bout I was going to fence like it was the most important bout of my life which is why I think some of the scores were like 15-4. Because, psychologically, I don’t think I could afford to give up at all and to do anything less than completely going there. That’s something I’ve figured out in my competing style is that I just have to be super intense. And also scream my head off [laughs]. That’s just who I am and it works for me.”

McGlade compared her intensity on the strip to her creativity in the film world.

“That intensity doesn’t tire me out. Anything that tires me out is like physical. Honestly, I feel that it’s like creativity. It’s like there’s an unlimited reserve of it to tap from,” McGlade said. “I was talking to [Coach] Gary [Copeland] and he said he thinks that when I was a kid I was even more insane than I am now and I was like ‘Are you serious? How is that possible?’”  

McGlade said she’s continuing to work on directing primarily independent films and has a project in the works with Rita Wilson attached, but, this time she’s juggling her movie schedule around fencing and is convinced that she can be successful at both of her passions.

“It doesn’t make sense that I took the break that I did at the time, but everything happens for a reason. Maybe I needed it and now I’ve come back knowing that I really want to do it rather than just continuing fencing because you’ve just always done it and you don’t know what else to do. I really have something to prove to myself and I just have a totally renewed love for competing in the sport and USA Fencing,” McGlade said. 

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