Former Jewish Guy of the Week Damien is representing the USA in the 2013 Maccabiah Games. GTJ at down with Damien to learn a little more about his fencing experiences.
Rachel: How did you get involved in fencing?
Damien: I started fencing when I was eight years old. My best friend’s father was a champion level fencer in Sweden and introduced us to the sport at a young age. I’ve had the same coach since I was eight (Janusz Smolenski) and I’m a sucker for consistency, so I don’t think I’ll be changing any time…ever!
Rachel: We heard you also coach. How has that been?
Damien: Coaching has been just as much a joy to me as much as fencing competitively. I have had the privilege of mentoring a very motivated group of kids who love fencing and work their tails off. One of my students (Suzanne Stettinius) qualified for the London 2012 Olympics, so I had the opportunity to travel over there with her and see her through to the big stage. On the side, I run a website called thefencingcoach.com and write a weekly fencing/fencing coaching column for the Washington Times.
Rachel: What is your proudest moment in fencing?
Damien: Going to the Olympics and seeing a student compete gave me a feeling of joy that I can’t even put into words. I’m no sap, but I may have gotten a little teary-eyed. Three months after the Olympics, I joined three of my very good friends/teammates in winning the 2012 North American Cup Senior Men’s Epee Team. I came in as the alternate. We had a blast the entire day, didn’t take ourselves too seriously, and walked away with a gold medal. All in all, 2012 was a great year full of many unforgettable fencing memories, and I’m hoping to continue this positive streak with the Maccabiah games!
Rachel: Are you excited to represent USA in the Maccabiah games? What are you looking forward to most?
Damien: Excited is an understatement! To be selected for the Maccabiah games is humbling, unexpected, and the opportunity of a lifetime. I embrace any opportunity to compete, and am thrilled to engage in combat with the best Jewish athletes in the world. This will be my second trip to Israel, so I am excited to return. I made some great friends on my Shorashim trip there last year, and am eager to reconnect with them. Israel is one of the most beautiful countries in the world. Who would not be psyched to return!
Damien needs to raise $5000 to finance his trip to the World Maccabiah Games. You can help him here.