(Colorado Springs, Colo.) – USA Fencing is pleased to announce the 2018-19 season’s first 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 first quarter’s Fencing Spirit of Sport Award are as follows:
All selections will receive a USA Fencing Spirit of Sport t-shirt and bag tag.
In addition, beginning in the 2018-19 season, USA Fencing will be honoring one annual Fencing Spirit of Sport winner. After the fourth quarter winners have been announced, a selection committee will name the top selection in each region from the pool of 24 winners named throughout the season. The fencing community will then select the winner from the final six in an online vote available to the entire USA Fencing membership.
The overall winner will receive a plaque and will be honored at the USA Fencing National Championships and July Challenge in Columbus, Ohio.
Nominations for the second quarter are due December 15. The nomination form can be found here.
More information on each of our winners can be found below:
Region 1: Olivia Steverson (Laramie, Wyo.)
Club: University of Wyoming Fencing Club
Number of Years Fencing: 10
Nominated By: Toriana Shephard (Club President)
Despite being a member of University of Wyoming Fencing Club for less than three years, Olivia Steverson is making an incredibly positive impact, inspiring a new passion for the sport in others and creating an accepting environment. As a student coach, she puts her fencers above her own achievements, ensuring members are having fun while treating others with respect. Everyone – regardless of weapon or background – is welcome. Steverson introduced saber to an épée club, working to erase negative stereotypes between the different weapons. She also makes sure the club is respectful of members of the LGBTQ+ community so that everyone knows they are welcome to join the club and fence.
“During her time with UWFC I have seen Olivia excel as a student coach and vice president for the club,” Shephard said. “I cannot think of another person I have met while fencing more deserving of this honor than Olivia.”
Region 2: Cooper Smith (Madison, Wis.)
Club: Madison Fencing Academy
Number of Years Fencing: 3
Nominated By: Michael Garrison (Club Owner)
When a new teacher asked each student to say one thing that defines him or her, Cooper Smith responded with “I am a fencer!” At 12 years old, Smith is an inspiration to his club mates not only for his passion and dedication to the sport, but in the way he willingly helps others. He’s always the first to offer to set up strips as well as put away gear at the end of the day. He befriends new fencers and helps them get oriented with the club. When teammates return from competitions, Smith is always excited to hear about their experiences. Regardless of his own results, he’s always at practice working hard and striving to improve.
“I'm nominating Cooper because he's the example I use for new fencers when I'm explaining how we fence, work together, train, handle the gear ... everything,” Garrison said. “Last week Cooper was able to fence an A-rated fencer at our club. He lost the bout, but came off the strip beaming. I asked him to tell me about his experience. He said, ‘I learned so much!’ We went into detail about the touches; however, it was his understanding that every loss is a learning experience that made me further realize what a special kid he is.”
Region 3: Aaron Ruby (Bethesda, Md.)
Club: Capital Fencing Academy
Number of Years Fencing: 16
Nominated By: Trina Do (Girlfriend and Club Member)
From finding fencing at a school/camp activity to fencing in college to now coaching, Aaron Ruby has been committed to the sport of fencing since he was 12. Loved and respected by his students, he teaches classes three days a week to kids of various skill levels and gives private lessons, even with a full-time job outside of the fencing club. He travels to nearly every NAC and even offers up his Saturdays to make up lessons or help with classes. Known for being thoughtful and engaging in his classes, he understands fencing is not just about competition, teaching the physical and mental aspects of the sport while also making it fun and inclusive for everyone.
“He is always encouraging, selfless, and knows how to push a fencer when they need it most,” Do said. “I've seen firsthand how amazing he is with kids, adults and parents, and all club members. He deserves this recognition more than anyone else for all of his hard work!”
Region 4: Aditi Soin (Sunnyvale, Calif.)
Club: UCSD and Academy of Fencing Masters
Number of Years Fencing: 9
Nominated By: Vinita Soin (Parent)
In love with fencing and dedicated to it before she’d even tried the sport, Aditi Soin was persistent for three years trying to convince her parents to allow her to fence. At 14, her wish was granted and she’s been fencing ever since. Now at UCSD, Soin is always supporting her teammates. She volunteers many hours to help the team and, when she was injured, she supported her team from the sidelines. She has run summer camps and shows her love of the sport through blog posts. She also is known for her sportsmanship, once offering her own weapon to her opponent in need so that she avoided disqualification.
“Aditi is well known for her sportsmanship spirit on and off the strip,” Vinita Soin said. “I have often received compliments from other coaches and referees about her calm and respectful behavior.”
Region 5: Kate Sierra (North Richland Hills, Texas)
Club: Cutting Edge Fencing
Number of Years Fencing: 14
Nominated By: David Sierra (Coach, Co-owner and Husband)
Kate Sierra is involved with fencing in many different ways. She is a fencer herself, known as a strong, but fair, competitor who welcomes others to the sport. As a coach, Sierra guides fencers of all ages and works hard to grow the sport. She also works with the U.S. Fencing Coaches Association to increase both the number and visibility of female coaches. Outside of the club, she is the host of the SabreCoachKate podcast and writes a blog with information topics on a variety of topics. The podcast, which interviews athletes, coaches and referees, is also a tool to help create awareness and expand the sport.
“Kate is a leader in both her immediate community of fencers and the greater fencing community,” David Sierra said. “I can think of few individuals who represent the spirit of fencing as well as her.”
Region 6: Rebekah Bucur (Winter Garden, Fla.)
Number of Years Fencing: 9
Nominated By: Jennifer Seachrist (Division Chair)
Fencing at every opportunity she has, Rebekah Bucur always gives 100 percent and win or lose, has a smile on her face. Even with success, she stays humble and focused. She understands the importance of sportsmanship and treats each competitor with respect, as if they were a friend. She is there to support and coach other fencers, both those from her club and other clubs. Bucur goes out of her way to help with whatever is needed – no matter the task – never failing to visit Bout Committee to offer assistance.
“Rebekah is a role model for other fencers, young and old, in her club as well as in our Division,” Seachrist said. “[She] is a passionate athlete, a fierce competitor, a genuine sportsman, a focused student, a strong role model, a caring friend, and an all-around good egg. We are proud to have her as a part of the Central Florida Division.”
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