If you were to tell Blaine fencer Alexander Nelson five years ago that he would be competing at a national level, he would have said no way.
But in February, that is exactly what he will be doing.
Nelson took up fencing back in 2009, when a friend of his introduced him to the sport.
“I first heard about fencing from a friend of mine,” Nelson said in a phone interview. “I didn’t know anything about it. I tried other sports and didn’t find one that I liked.”
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He previously tried baseball earlier in his life, but eventually found out it wasn’t the sport for him. After trying fencing, Nelson knew he found the right sport.
Nelson began his fencing at the Bellingham Bay Fencing Club, where he still fences today.
“The tactical and historical aspects draw me into the sport,” he said. “My favorite subjects in school are history and english. Fencing is one of the older sports in history.”
Fencing can be compared to chess in the eyes of Nelson. During a match he makes a plan and determines what his opponent wants to do. Based off that information and his feel for the match, Nelson instead makes his opponents do what he wants, while trying not to reveal his plan.
“It’s a lot of maneuvering. Ultimately the strongest and fastest fencer isn’t going to win,” he said. “It will be the person who tricks the other into doing something they shouldn’t do.”
Nelson recently competed in the Western Washington Division Junior Qualifiers on Nov. 22, at the Washington Fencing Academy in Seattle. At the event he placed first, qualifying him for the Junior Olympics in Richmond, Va., in February.
Nelson won the finals by a score of 15-14 in a competitive, back-and-forth match.
“It was a really close match. I’ve fenced the guy previously in the pool rounds beforehand. I do better when I know what my opponent is planning,” Nelson said. “I was ahead and it looked like I was going to win easily. He came back to tie it at 14 after changing his strategy and I was able to get a nice touch to win the match.”
The Junior Olympics is a national competition for fencers at the age of 17 or younger. The top three finishers from each division qualify to compete in the Junior Olympics.
“I’ve never been to a tournament that big before,” he said. “It’s going to be exciting for me”.
Even though he qualified for the under 17 Junior Olympics, he almost qualified for the under 20 Olympics. He placed fourth, barely missing the cut.
From five years ago taking on fencing recreationally to competing at the Junior Olympics nationally, Nelson hopes to take his fencing career even further.
In the future, he would like to compete in Nationals — separate event for fencers over the age of 20.
“I was just a fencer recreationally at Bellingham Bay,” Nelson said. “Now that I’m far better, I’m ready to spend more time pursuing (fencing).”