A local student will be competing this summer at the 2012 USA Fencing National Championships, a division of the U.S. Olympic games.
Welsey McDowell, a sabre fencer and a rising sophomore at , will participate in three events (age divisions Y14, U16 and U19) in the tournament, which will take place from June 29 to July 8 in Anaheim, Calif.
The GAC student from Stone Mountain has been a fencer for four years. His most recent competition was in April at Kennesaw Mountain Regional High School, where he participated in the Peach State Open ROC and the Georgia Games 2012 Fencing Championships.
At the competition, he was awarded the gold medal for finishing highest of all the fencers from Georgia and received eighth place among the different competing states. He's one of the youngest competitors in Georgia to score the gold.
McDowell is also a member of the 2012 First Team USA Fencing Academic Team with a 4.18 GPA, which he will receive recognition for at the California games.
The soon-to-be sophomore started fencing when he was 11 and has been practicing three times a week for four-hour sessions at Nellya Fencing Club, located in Atlanta. Nellya was founded by Maestro Burdan, who was a U.S. Olympic Coach for 2008's Beijing games and Athens in 2004.
Because of Burdan's Olympics connections and 30-plus years of coaching, McDowell has had the opportunity to meet and get advice from fencers who have competed in the big games. One particular fencing Olympian, Daryl Homer, who will be in the 2012 London games, shares McDowell's shorter-than-average height (Homer is 5'8" and McDowell is 5'5"), so he was able to learn more about taking advantage of taller opponents.
Even though McDowell is headed to the Olympics, he admitted that fencing didn't come so easily at first. When he started, he was concentrating more on the technical side of fencing rather than actually scoring touches.
His coach, Terrence Lasker, told him to work more on his aggressiveness, though, which did the trick. Once McDowell got around that, which took about a year, that's when he started winning more bouts and competitions.
"It was a lot of fun then, but it's been more fun than it was before," McDowell said. "Now I'm just making sure I'm staying where I'm at and try to get better."
McDowell will be competing in the USA Fencing National Championships from June 29 to July 8 in Anaheim, Calif., with the grand prize being a $4,000 scholarship.
For more information, check out the U.S. Olympics Fencing page.