Photo courtesy ofMarie-Lan Nguyen
Soren Thompson: 5 Things Everyone Should Know About Fencing

By: Megan Sauer

Former Olympian and California State games alumni Soren Thompson wasn't like every other kid living outside San Diego. Throughout his childhood, he was involved in just about any sport he could get his hands on. He swam, he sailed, he played baseball, and at age seven, he started to fence. While he continued to play many sports during high school, he eventually decided to dedicate a majority of his time to mastering the art of fencing.

Photo courtesy of Marie-Lan Nguyen

"I think I was particularly drawn to fencing because of the way my coaches were able to help me consistently reach up into the next level," said Thompson. "It was a long process of improvement, but I really enjoyed being challenged by the complex and unique aspects of the sport."

Soren's relationship with the State Games reaches back into 1993 when he was twelve. With fencing being a less popular sport, it was a great opportunity for him to advance his fencing career by matching against some of California's top competitors.

"I remember it always being a really solid regional competition," said Thompson. "I was very proud that the event was held in San Diego. I try to go back to speak at Opening Ceremonies as often as I can."

After graduating high school, Thompson went on to continue his academic as well as athletic career at Princeton University. In anticipation of the 2004 Olympics, he took a

year off of school and focused on his training. He ended up qualifying for both the individual and team events in Athens. Being the first man to represent the U.S. in nearly 50 years in the quarterfinals, he took 7th and helped his team come away with a 5th place finish for the U.S.

Following his first Olympics, Soren finished school and began working. He was also gradually positioning himself to qualify for the 2008 Olympics. Thompson describes having the best season of his career leading up to Beijing. Before he was able to qualify however, Soren suffered a serious injury which forced him to retire from competitive fencing.

Within a couple years, Thompson had a promising start to a career, but he knew he wasn't ready to give up fencing. He came out of retirement and devised a plan to qualify for the 2012 London Olympics, which were only a year and a half away. He tactfully trained before and after his full-time job to guarantee he would be at his athletic peak when it came time to qualify. With a lingering injury to accommodate, Soren decided he had accumulated enough skill throughout his years of training to coach himself through his final shot at qualifying for the Olympics. He ended his 2012 season with his best record yet, ranking him seventh in the world.

2012 was an unprecedented season in the world of fencing. It was the first year the International Olympic Committee decided to hold a women's team event in the Olympics. This meant however the event would trade off biennially with the men's team event, meaning while Soren's team had just won the world championship, he would only have the opportunity to compete for the U.S. in London in the men's individual event. With only a year and a half of training between his injury and the Olympics, Thompson finished 19th for the U.S. at his final Olympic Games.

While there have been many ups and downs to Soren Thompson's fencing career, there have been a lot of rewarding components that continue to motivate him to make an impact in the fencing community. He feels he is able to mentor and coach aspiring athletes because of how he taught to constantly strive to achieve his goals and work on a team.

"I'd say my best advice for young fencers is to find one's own way of fencing, which is achieved by expressing yourself and working really hard to create a game you believe in" said Thompson. "You have to learn to be a receiver of information as well as an active participant when you're being coached. It means making constant adjustments to the strategies others suggest and interpreting them to the knowledge of your own experience and skill set, rather than mere execution."

With that being said, here are 5 general things Soren Thompson believes EVERYONE should know about fencing:

1. Fencing Is A Sport With Incredible Tradition

Another way fencing has stood out from other sports is it is one of the oldest Olympic events and it has been held since at every summer Olympics.

"As a fencer, I've always been really proud of it tradition," said Thompson. "It's been enticing to watch the sport continually evolve over the years as well."

2. Fencing Is An Extremely Fast Sport
Photo courtesy of Jeanne Quillan

To the untrained eye, it can be difficult to pick up on the incredibly intricate techniques the athletes employ during a fencing match. Fencers typically have a matter of milliseconds to react to their opponents' strategies before firing back.

"The swiftness of the sport can be compared to that of shooting sports, whereas it only takes an instance to make snap decisions," said Thompson. "It's like firing a gun. There's a lot to think about in an incredibly brief period of time."

3. Fencing Is A Smart Sport
Photo courtesy ofMarie-Lan Nguyen

From the academics to techniques, Thompson has always found the dedication of fencers causes them to be incredibly intelligent athletes. Many athletes chose to continue their fencing careers at some of the most prestigious schools in the country in order to have the opportunity to purse a professional career after their days of an athlete have come to a close.

"Everyone I have encountered in the sport seems to have this great intelligence," said Thompson. "I think the sport of fencing definitely plays a role in this because the athletes remain inquisitive before, during, and after their careers."

4. Fencing Is Gaining More International Attention

15 years ago, Soren would have described fencing as very weak internationally. The amateur status of many fencers are often overlooked, and therefore receive little funding like other U.S. athletes to compete internationally. Through the constant support of fencers and their parents, however, all that has begun to change.

"The US has witnessed an amazing transformation in the past years, and now consistently has some of the best age groups in the world," said Thompson. "The domestic coaching has helped bring in international coaches that contribute tremendously in the success of US fencers, which will hopefully create more support and funding for fencers to come."

5. Fencing Is A Lifelong Sport
Photo courtesy of Don Kok

Whether you pick up your first sword at age 5 or 85, anyone at any age can get involved and enjoy the sport of fencing. Not only that, but because the world of fencing is a very close-knit community, the sport of fencing continues to impact fencers even after their height athletic careers. Soren grew up competing against many of his teammates, and he attributes much of his 2012 team's success that their relationship helped them develop a true core of a team.

"One of the best things about the sport is anyone can gain something from matching other fencers," said Thompson. "Especially those who have gone out of their way to access the sport will enjoy it."