(Colorado Springs, Colo.) – USA Fencing is pleased to announce the 2017-18 season’s third group of recipients for the Fencing Spirit of Sport Recognition Program, recognizing six members of the fencing community who have exemplified outstanding dedication to the sport and are an inspiration to others.
Each quarter, one recipient from each region is chosen based on commitment and dedication to the sport as well as his or her club, respect, teamwork, inclusion, passion, sportsmanship and character.
The six recipients for the third quarter’s Fencing Spirit of Sport Award are as follows:
All selections will be honored at the 2018 USA Fencing National Championships in St. Louis and will receive a USA Fencing Spirit of Sport t-shirt and bag tag.
Nominations for the fourth quarter are due June 15. The nomination form can be found here.
More information on each of our winners can be found below:
Region 1: Tobias Lee
Club: Metro Tacoma Fencing Club
Weapons: Epee and foil
Nominated By: Deborah Li (MTFC board member and parent) and Jee Young Kim (fencer and parent)
Both a fencer and volunteer coach, Lee loves sharing the sport of fencing with others. He is at the club multiple times every week, working to help fencers of all ages improve, coaching a parent who wants to learn more about fencing or practicing – all while working around his busy schedule as a cardiologist. As a fencer, Lee ends each bout with a mini lesson for his opponent and works to improve by asking his opponents for advice. As a coach, he encourages his students to try new tactics and skills and loves when his students use the skills he taught, even if it results in a loss on his end. When he travels to events, he is willing to be a strip coach to help all the fencers at the club do their best.
“Coach Toby can often be found huddled with a group of fencers, recapping a bout and discussing successful skills and tactics. His passion for the sport of fencing is infectious,” said Li and Kim. “Many current members of MTFC are here because they were introduced to the sport of fencing by Coach Toby.”
Region 2: Vladimir Nazlymov
Club: Fencing Alliance of Ohio, recently retired head coach at Ohio State
Number of Years Fencing: 50+
Nominated By: Chloe Gouhin (student)
Nazlymov has played an incredible role in developing fencers and the sport as a whole, teaching youth and high school programs as well as coaching at Ohio State University for nearly 20 years. Looking for greater inclusion in fencing, he passed up an opportunity to work in the more affluent area of New York City to go to Kansas City with the intention to work with young underprivileged children. Throughout his years coaching, he has taught so many respect, discipline, teamwork and sportsmanship, giving decades of time and working long days and evenings. He also makes sure his students put school first while sharing his passion for the sport.
“He has been a role model for all children and adults,” Gouhin said. “He is the epitome of that this award means. He is most deserving to show his lifetime of commitment has been acknowledged.”
Dennis Kolakowski (right)
Region 3: Dennis Kolakowski
Club: Kolakowski Fencing
Nominated By: Ilsa Hoffman (student)
As someone who loves all aspects of fencing, Kolakowski goes above and beyond for his students. He has created a competitive, motivating atmosphere at the club, growing its size and increasing the level of fencing while still staying dedicated to each student. He is always dependable to be at tournaments, making personal sacrifices to train and travel and creates a team atmosphere by organizing group dinners. Kolakowski has a notebook filled with notes on his students’ performances to help them improve as well as the fencers’ favorite foods so he can pick them up at the grocery store.
“He is the most selfless and dedicated person I know,” Hoffman said. “We all cherish him as a coach as he strives and fights to give us every opportunity as possible. I am so thankful for Dennis and his commitment to making us the most virtuous fencers we could possibly be.”
Region 4: Ziad Khayat
Club: East Bay Fencers
Number of Years Fencing: 4.5
Nominated By: Emily Beihold (teammate at UCSD)
Khayat lives and breathes the sport of fencing, his passion and dedication obvious to all around him. Even after practicing six days a week at UCSD, Khayat wants to practice more and fences at clubs in the area. When not at the club, he does footwork wherever he is, whether he is on a moving bus to a tournament, in an airport, at the mall or a restaurant, or even in a tree. When he isn’t fencing, he’s talking about the sport and is watching any video he can, to the point that he can recite his favorite touch at the exact time it was scored in the video. Khayat is a fantastic sportsman, not getting angry after losses and looking for ways to improve. He’ll keep his gear on and ask the best fencers to fence to better his skills. And at UCSD, he is willing to do whatever it takes to be the best teammate.
“After Emma Zmurk and I qualified for the 2018 NCAA Championships, he studied the fencers we would be fencing on Youtube and tried to mimic them in practice so that we could best prepare,”Beihold said. “After the bouts, he would offer constructive criticism, but also compliment us for what we were doing well. He's an invaluable asset to our team and there really is no one who deserves this award more than him.”
Paula Hawkins (left)
Region 5: Paula Hawkins
Club: New Orleans Fencers Club
Number of Years Fencing: Seven
Nominated By: Jonathan Cohen (club owner)
Hawkins picked up fencing when her son started in the sport, but has continued even after her son quit and is a mainstay at the club. As the tournament manager, she has been the go-to person for all club and division tournaments. She also has worked the Bout Committee at both national and regional events. But that’s not where Hawkins’ role ends. She has worked tirelessly with the wheelchair program, overcoming challenges at the local and federal levels to bring wheelchair fencing to New Orleans. Hawkins created the New Orleans Fencing Foundation, a 501-c-3 charity to gain funding for equipment and scholarships to get the program off the ground.
“I can go through all seven areas of evaluation and check them all off plus [she’s a] working mother, but to me what shines above all else is when I hear someone ask the question of how do they pull off this tournament or that event. It is because we have Paula,” Cohen said.
Region 6: Zoe Miller
Club: Chapel Hill High School, Chapel Hill Fencing Club
Number of Years Fencing: Six
Nominated By: Anne Miller (parent)
Not long after Miller started fencing, she was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes and Celiac Disease. After a long hospital stay and recovery, she returned to the sport and creatively found a way to protect the cannulas in her body from direct hits while not blocking the target area, using a tea strainer and tablespoon. As a freshman in high school, she was the only underclassman on the fencing team and when her teammates graduated, she worked to grow the team. As the captain her junior and senior years, Miller worked to develop the team and increase access to fencing for high school students, which meant borrowing equipment, repairing clothing and equipment, and teaching a beginner program that encouraged students to try the sport as the team received no funding since it’s not considered a varsity sport.
“She never complains about the additional difficulties Type 1 adds to fencing because a) she is a remarkably un-whiny teenager and b) she loves fencing with a passion,” Anne Miller said. “This January, Zoe led the Chapel Hill High School Women's team to the North Carolina State championship once again … She also has been on chosen for USA Fencing's National Academic All-American Team for three years running.”
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