Songdo, Korea – Five Columbia fencers took their weapons abroad this month, traveling across the world to Jeju Island, Korea to participate in the Korea-USA Elite Fencing Invitational (KUEFI). The Lions competed against 120 fencers from four Korean universities and nine U.S. collegiate institutions. Now in its third year, the annual tournament serves to promote and develop U.S. and Korean fencing and expose international fencers to Korean culture.
The Lions were represented by senior Loweye Diedro (women's sabre), juniors William Spear and Michael Josephs (men's sabre), and sophomores Brian Ro (men's epee) and Jackie Dubrovich (women's foil). Dubrovich headlined the Columbia fencers with a third-place finish, while Josephs and Diedro placed among the top eight.
“KUEFI gives our team valuable experience to fence with the top Korean collegiate fencers while learning more about Korean culture,” said Columbia fencing head coach Michael Aufrichtig, who gave a speech at the event on the benefits of being elite athletes and excellent students. “All of our athletes had a memorable experience and we are very thankful for this opportunity.”
Hosted by Korean Collegiate Fencing Federation President and Stanford Fencing Association International President, Jimi K. Jung, this year's summer invitational consisted of fencers from Brandeis, Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Northwestern, Notre Dame, Princeton, Stanford and the University of Pennsylvania, while the Korean fencers were represented by Daegu, Daejeon, Dongeui and the International University of Korea.
One of the main themes of the tournament was "Education Through Athletics." With final exams approaching for Columbia students taking summer courses, Ro was hard at work studying throughout the event studying for his chemistry final as he awaited his turn to fence. This behavior is atypical in Korea, where academic and fencing universities are separate.
The leading sports newspaper in Korea, Sports Chosun, took notice of Ro studying at the event and ran a feature story praising him on his ability to balance fencing and academics.
The Sports Chosun reporter, Young Ji Chun, wrote, "I have never seen any Korean collegiate fencers study during an event. I am truly amazed by U.S. student-athletes."
Ro said he believes that fencing manifests both mental and physical discipline, which prepares one for both the strip and the classroom.
“In Korea, you can’t pursue athletics and academics,” said Ro. “Our trip was a message to them that they can.”
Aufrichtig presented the same idea in his engaging speech to the KUEFI audience.
“So many matches are decided by one touch or in the last few seconds. This takes a lot of effort to train the body and the mind. The experience of being a student-athlete forces one to have to think under extreme pressure at 14-14 and in final exams, take big risks on the strip and complete that important paper due right after a world cup.”