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USA Fencing Selects Second Quarter Fencing Spirit of Sport Recipients

01/23/2019, 3:30pm CST
By Kristen Henneman

(Colorado Springs, Colo.) – USA Fencing is pleased to announce the 2018-19 season’s second 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 second quarter’s Fencing Spirit of Sport Award are as follows:

  • Darby Duchow (Spokane, Wash.)
  • Ryan Bardellini (Indianapolis, Ind.)
  • John Carroll (Pittsburgh, Pa.)
  • Erika Retamal Velarde (Agoura Hills, Calif.)
  • Ethan Strand (Austin, Texas)
  • Nicholas Beach (Greenville, S.C.)

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 honor 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 third quarter are due March 1. The nomination form can be found here.

More information on each of our winners can be found below:

Region 1: Darby Duchow (Spokane, Wash.)
Club: Spokane Fencers Unlimited
Age: 61
Weapon: Épée, foil and saber
Nominated By: Ben Duchow (Son and coach at Spokane Fencers Unlimited)

One of the most committed people at Spokane Fencers Unlimited, Duchow began helping at the club when his son started fencing. A natural leader, Duchow took on more and more responsibility at the club as time went on. He has assisted running tournaments and became the club’s treasurer. His knowledge of finances has helped the club bring in more students. He also encourages the young fencers to dream big, travel to bigger tournaments and practice with the goal of being the best fencer they can be. Even if they lose, Duchow tells his students they have won as long as they don’t give up and fence their best.

“Darby has done all these things over the course of 15 years without paying himself, or getting paid one cent,” said Ben Duchow. “He donates all of his time, all of his spare energy and all his heart into helping others at Spokane Fencers Unlimited. He never thought about himself, and if he did, it was about ways he could improve himself to be a better role model for his young fencing students and fellow coaches.”

Region 2: Ryan Bardellini (Indianapolis, Ind.)
Club: IndySabre
Age: 19
Weapon: Saber
Number of Years Fencing: 9
Nominated By: Kimberly Bardellini (Parent)

Just days after competing at the November North American Cup in 2017, Bardellini – a high school senior who had dreams of fencing in college – was in an accident over Thanksgiving weekend. In a coma and not expected to live after suffering a traumatic brain injury, Bardellini’s mother was told that even if he did wake up, he would live in a persistent vegetative state. But Bardellini fought – just like he had on the fencing strip since he was 10. He spent three months in the hospital learning to breathe, eat, walk and talk again, showing incredible determination. His dream throughout was to fence again and, after leaving the hospital in a wheelchair in March of 2018, Bardellini is now working hard on a comeback, running, working out daily and working with his coach with his eye on competing this year.

“Fencing has been a huge part of my son, Ryan Bardellini's, life,” Kimberly Bardellini said. “He's a true miracle and I credit a lot of his recovery to the passion, dedication and commitment he developed as a fencer.”

Region 3: John Carroll (Pittsburgh, Pa.)
Club: Pittsburgh Fencers' Club
Age: 71
Weapon: Épée and foil
Number of Years Fencing: 7
Nominated By: Deerwood McCord (Team Member)

Carroll has many different roles in the fencing community, including a teacher, supporter and fencer himself. He is the head coach of Aquinas Academy Fencing Club, where he has made significant strides in growing the program, and offers seminars and camps to support his young fencers. He also values their academics by offering tutoring and publicizes their accomplishments by writing press releases. Carroll supports his team members at Pittsburgh Fencers' Club, attending tournaments even if he’s not competing and is always available for fencing advice and moral support. At Pittsburgh Fencers’ Club, he also has helped with the planning process for the club’s inaugural RYC, attending planning sessions to support young fencers and expand the sport in the area. And competing is just one more way Carroll exudes his love for fencing, never fearing loss.

“John Carroll has demonstrated exceptional dedication to the sport of fencing,” McCord said. “He is a student. A coach. A mentor. John embraces the sport and all who participate in it.”

Region 4: Erika Retamal Velarde (Agoura Hills, Calif.)
Club: Agoura Hills Recreation Center and Beverly Hills Fencers Club
Age: 36
Weapon: Épée, foil and saber
Number of Years Fencing: 26
Nominated By: 10 separate nominations

 A coach at multiple clubs and schools, Retamal Velarde genuinely cares about each of her students and has an incredible and infectious passion for the sport of fencing. She promotes camaraderie while teaching respect and good sportsmanship. A role model for all as both a coach and person, her students look forward to learning from her and she loves seeing them improve. Retamal Velarde always has a positive attitude and a smile on her face, using positive reinforcement to motivate her students. Her goal is not solely winning but seeing that every student does their best and has fun. She works with each student individually and even holds fencing practices at the beach on Saturdays to help ready her students for competition.

"Erika was the reason I started fencing five years ago,” said Zohar Levy, one of her students. “Erika is a selfless, strong, and loving woman who dedicates her time, energy, and spirit to help others and share with them her favorite sport. She begins each practice by asking her students about their day, and ends each challenging practice with a hug and a ‘see you soon!’”

Region 5: Ethan Strand (Austin, Texas)
Club: Round Rock Fencing Club
Age: 17
Weapon: Épée, foil and saber
Number of Years Fencing: 10
Nominated By: Gary Murray (Club Owner and Coach)

Although he doesn’t have a great deal of competition experience, Strand has proved to be an incredible training partner and has been an assistant coach for five years. Currently going through the coaching certification process through the USFCA, Strand is a student of the game, continuing to take lessons so that he can pass on what he learns to his students. He has a true passion for fencing, which inspires his students, and is always punctual at training. He also ensures all students treat each other with respect while staying safe and having fun.

“His character is above reproach and the students admire him for the way he teaches and inspires,” Murray said. “This is why he is my assistant head coach. That is why I believe he is the perfect nominee.”

Region 6: Nicholas Beach (Greenville, S.C.)
Club: Foothills Fencing Academy
Age: 17
Weapon: Épée
Number of Years Fencing: 6
Nominated By: CJ McCarter (Coach)

Beach founded the fencing team at his high school, doing all the necessary research and working with the school to find a teacher sponsor and space for the team to practice. After the first year, when the coach could not continue, he volunteered to coach. Each year, Beach has helped the team grow, recruiting more and more students to join the team. He also has helped run interschool meets. Both at the high school and his club, Beach has always included and encouraged other fencers, practicing with those who are younger and less experienced. During meets, he always shows good sportsmanship, shaking hands with the opposing team and helping other fencers improve.

“I believe Nicholas Beach is worthy of being selected for the USA Fencing Spirit of Sport recognition,” McCarter said. “He has shown great commitment and dedication to the sport of fencing by working to start and continue the fencing team at his high school.  I think his passion for the sport and personal character are both evident through this endeavor, as well.”

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