NEW YORK -- A fencing World Cup competition made a rare appearance in New York this weekend, and two "transplanted" Bostonians, Emma Baratta and Daria Schneider, took high honors among Columbia's past and present fencers who competed in the prestigious event.
Both fencers reached the Table (round) of 32 in the New York Sabre World Cup, which was held July 24-26 at the New York Athletic Club on Central Park South. Another highly-ranked Columbia alumnus, Jeff Spear '10CC, advanced to the Table of 64 in the men's competition, which is the only World Cup Olympic qualifying event to be held on U.S. soil during the lead-up to the 2012 London Olympic Games.
That Schneider and Spear advanced so far in the competition was no surprise. Both are United States Senior World Team members, and Schneider earned a bronze medal in her previous World Cup, in Gent, Belgium, earlier this month. But Baratta's performance was.
The 2006 Columbia College graduate had earned loads of honors during her Columbia career. A four-time All-American and three-time All-Ivy League honoree, she was a finalist for the Connie S. Maniatty Senior Student-Athlete Award, and received the Marion Philips Watch.
But she had seen little action on the fencing strip the past three years, as the New Jersey native was living in Cambridge and attending Harvard Law School. The New York World Cup was her first major competition since she began at Harvard.
"I was not training," Baratta admitted, a fact few of her opponents would have believed. She won five straight bouts in her opening pool, over fencers from France, Hungary, Liberia, Poland, and Australia, after an opening 5-4 loss to Hin Wai Lam of Hong Kong, and advanced directly to Saturday's Table of 64.
There she defeated Lucia Martin-Rodrigues of Spain, 15-12, to move up to the Table of 32. Unfortunately, her tournament ended in that round, as she bowed to Azza Besbes of Tunisia, ranked seventh in the world, by a 15-7 score.
Baratta was cheered by her performance in her return to international fencing.
"I fenced pretty well today," she said. "I'm happy with it." Emma will have to decide whether to continue her comeback by balancing fencing training with her new job at the New York law firm of Fried Frank. "I interned with them last year," she said, "but they haven't told me what I'll be doing when I join them in December. I think I'll work in litigation."
One factor that will help shape her decision is the chance to be back in New York with her coach, Yuri Gelman, after their three-year separation.
Daria Schneider '10CC began the World Cup as well as Baratta, winning five of six in her pool, and then defeating Junior World silver medalist Anna Varhelyi of Hungary, 15-12, in a Table of 64 preliminary match.
The Brookline, Mass., native advanced to the Table of 32 with a victory over Greece's Vassiliki Vougioka, also by 15-12, and appeared well on her way to the win that would send her to the round of 16 when she took command in her bout with Germany's Anna Limbach.
Schneider led in the bout, 9-6, before Limbach, who competes for St. John's, started a rally. She outscored Daria, 9-3, en route to a 15-12 victory. Limbach also won her next bout, in the round of 16, with a similar rally.
Jeff Spear also won five of six in his pool, but was waylaid by Wei He, a towering fencer from China. Spear trailed most of the bout, drawing as close as 5-7, before He scored five straight touches for a 12-5 advantage. The final score was 15-7.
Also competing, but not reaching the Table of 64, were present, past and future Lions. Columbia co-captain and All-American Sammy Roberts '12SEAS finished 94th in the women's competition, while former All-American and Olympic medalist James Williams '07CC was 74th in the men's division. The future Lion was Jeff Spear's brother, Will, who will enter Columbia in September; he placed 113th.