SUWON, Korea - Eight Columbia fencers took their weapons abroad, traveling across the world to Suwon, Korea to participate in the Korea-USA Elite Fencing Invitational (KUEFI) July 6-11. The Lions took the strip against 132 fencers from seven Korean universities and 11 United States collegiate institutions. Now in its fourth year, the annual tournament serves to promote and develop U.S. and Korean fencing and expose international fencers to Korean culture.
Columbia was well represented in each of the three weapons on the men’s side as six Lions took the strip, while the women’s squad sent two entrants to the six-day event. Each of Columbia’s eight fencers finished in the top-20 with four garnering spots in the top-10.
The Lions men shined in the foil. After a thrilling 15-14 victory over Gyu Park of Woosuk in the round of 16, junior Harry Bergman’s run to the podium was cut short in the quarterfinals as the Lebanon, New Jersey, native placed fifth. Bergman’s weaponmate and classmate Adam Mathieu also fell shy of the top-three. Mathieu, who calls Union City, New Jersey, home, claimed sixth after dominating Chang Kwak of Pusan University of Foreign Studies in the table of 16.
Geoffrey Loss turned in a top-10 performance in the men’s sabre. Out of 14 entrants, the junior from Laguna Beach, California, placed sixth.
The remaining Columbia men’s fencers, who also reign from the junior class, competed in the men’s epee, which featured 31 participants. Justin Wan and Brian Ro finished 10th and 14th, respectively, while Jake Hoyle’s 17th-place finish rounded out the trio.
In the women’s epee, sophomore Mason Speta had an impressive run, finishing fifth out of 18 competitors.
Speta’s classmate, Jessie Laffey, turned in Columbia’s seventh top-15 performance taking 12th in the women’s foil.
Off the strip, the main theme of the tournament was “Education Through Athletics.” Unlike at Columbia, education through athletics is an atypical behavior in Korea. As the keynote speaker on behalf of the U.S.’s invited colleges, head coach Michael Aufrichtig emphasized how important the combination of the two is. “Through the combination of athletics and education individuals gain remarkable experiences to learn from and then go out and conquer the world.”
Columbia’s squads will build off Aufrichtig’s concept in the 2014-15 season, but before the Lions return to Morningside Heights foil fencers senior Nzingha Prescod and junior Margaret Lu will travel to Kazan, Russia to compete with the Red, White and Blue at the Senior World Championships July 15-23.
2014 Korea-USA Elite Fencing Invitational Highlights
10th - Justin Wan
14th - Brian Ro
17th - Jake Hoyle
5th - Harrison Bergman
6th – Adam Mathieu
6th – Geoffrey Loss
5th – Mason Speta
12th – Jessie Laffey