The mark of Vie
Mention fencing in these parts, and likely folks will think you’re talking about posts and barbed wire.
But not if you happen to mention the name Natalie Vie. She’s the seventh best épée fencer in the United States. An Arizonan (she’s lived here since she was 2) and daughter of Argentine parents, Vie is training for the 2012 Olympic Games.
We recently caught up with the champion fencer. Get to know her and the sport, because you’ll be hearing more about the skilled – and striking – Ms. Vie.
First, how is épée different from sabre or foil fencing? Sabre and foil both have target areas on the body where the fencer can score a touch. In épée, the entire body is a valid target, from the toe, to the glove, to the mask. And in épée, there is no “right of way,” so touches may be scored at any moment.
Why fencing? Why not golf or barrel racing? I was reading Catcher in the Rye for my high school English class and the fencing in the book sparked an interest. I looked up fencing online and to my surprise, I found multiple clubs in Phoenix. I chose The Phoenix Falcons Fencing Club and began fencing the following summer. It was an épée-only club, so I had no option.
My height (5’5”) makes me a very unlikely candidate for épée (where being tall can be an advantage) and so if I had gone to any other club I probably would have ended up fencing sabre or foil.
How does your familia feel about their niña the champion fencer? My entire family is very supportive (Vie has many parientes in Buenos Aires). I am living at home while I train for the Olympics … I secretly love it when my Mom calls me and reminds me to be home early because I have a big tournament coming up.
My younger sister Jerica is also a competitive fencer. She recently won the Arizona Junior Olympic Qualifiers. I taught her to fence.
Who is your greatest competitor? I am definitely my own worst enemy. Sometimes I feel like I am battling myself rather than my opponent. Timing, distance, point control, tactics are all major factors in a fencing bout. If I am mentally off my game, then all of these things are affected.
How does fencing feed your soul? Due to the mental nature of fencing, at every step of the way I have had to confront my insecurities and demons to become a better athlete … ultimately, a better human being. And something inside of me tells me I need to pursue this to the highest level that I can, and that now is the time to do it. Perhaps it is a mix of perpetual dissatisfaction and a deep love for the sport of fencing that drives me to do this.
How do you make a living? I now coach at the club where I began fencing years ago with head coach Rolando Arroyo. Rolly, the fencers and their families are all extended family to me … they are all very supportive of my dreams. The club even started an Olympic Fencing Fund (at the club and online) to help me fundraise so that I can make it to all of my tournaments. Last year I could only afford to go to six of the 12 tournaments.
And once you win a gold medal or two, then what? As always, I have a lot of big plans. One project is an organized scholastic fencing league for high schools and junior highs in metro Phoenix. Fencing is so different from other sports with its combination of combat, etiquette, and tactics. I would love to bring fencing to our metro-Phoenix schools!
The adventures of Vie
• Four-time Collegiate Club National gold medalist representing ASU.
• Highest American finisher at both the 2009 World Cup Havana, Cuba and the 2010 World Cup in Germany.
• 2010 Division 1A U.S. National Champion.
• Currently ranked 7th in the U.S.
• Upcoming World Cups (depending on finances) in Doha, Budapest, Barcelona, Leipzig, Rio de Janeiro, La Habana, Sydney and Nanjing.
Keep up with Natalie Vie and her adventures at http://natalieviefencing.wordpress.com. You can also contribute to her 2012 Olympics fund (donations are 501(c)3 tax-deductible). ¡Buena suerte, Natalie!