En garde! Madeline Huang advances forward


Aryav Nagar

GIVE, BUT DON’T RECIEVE: Madeline Huang works with her coach, perfecting her fencing techniques to prepare for the Junior Olympics.

Kaylie Wang, Accent Editor

In a sport where athletes rely on experience to make split-second decisions with confidence, it would seem that junior Madeline Huang has been fencing all her life. After all, she placed first individually in the May 2022 California High School State Championships where she represented Northwood and has competed in two Division 1 fencing tournaments.

However, many may not know that Huang’s fencing journey started later than most. She was 14 years old when she fell in love with saber, one of the three fencing disciplines.

“Something about saber that really caught my attention was how quick and how fast paced it is,” Huang said. “You have to be both physically and mentally fast because you don’t have a lot of time to think.”

For six years before she started fencing, Huang had been training to earn her title as a third degree black belt in taekwondo. Since she was young, she always loved athletics and tried different sports, but never found one she wanted to dedicate her time to.

Then, in the summer going into ninth grade, she wanted to try something new before entering high school. A spontaneous Google search on local fencing centers brought her to the Laguna Fencing Center, where she fell in love with saber instantly.

“Fencing takes a while to get into,” Huang said. “Other sports, like basketball or soccer, have rules and strategies that aren’t as specific and detailed as fencing is.”

Each of the three fencing disciplines have their own weapon and set of rules. Saber is the fastest, over épée and foil, so Huang’s taekwondo experience was helpful.

“Something that helped me from taekwondo into fencing was the leg strength,” Huang said. “A lot of people who do fencing have really strong quads and legs, since that’s a lot of where fencing comes from.”

Every year, there are several North American Cup tournaments for fencers to compete in events of varying levels, like Division 1. Huang qualified for her first Division 1 event in the December 2022 NAC tournament, where she fenced against many collegiate fencers who had more experience than her.

In the recent January NAC tournament, Huang struggled initially with her first event, Junior Women’s Saber. Huang believed she did not fence as well as she could have.

“I think it was definitely a mental block and lack of confidence during that day,” Huang said. “I wasn’t able to fence how I wanted to.”

It’s important to stick to your goals and be very specific on what you work on. Being very specific with how I go to practice has helped.

— Madeline Huang

The next day would be her second time ever competing in a Division 1 event. To learn from her mistakes, she entered with a different mindset after adding a new step to her pre-tournament routine.

“One of my friends encouraged me to journal, and especially when you’re discouraged, it’s really helpful to write down how you’re feeling and some things you want to do better in,” Huang said. “So the day before Division 1, I journaled and wrote what I wanted to do that day, not necessarily earn a medal—that wasn’t my goal. My goal was simply to do what I’ve trained to do. Journaling helped me a lot because the next day, I fenced a hundred times better when I wasn’t focused on the result.”

While being on the fencing strip is not the place for planning future goals, Huang said that keeping her goals in mind when attending practice has been key to her success.

“It’s important to stick to your goals and be very specific on what you work on,” Huang said. “Being very specific with how I go to practice has helped.”

Some of Huang’s goals for the future include fencing in college and fulfilling her dream of competing at the Olympics. She hopes fencing becomes a more widely accessible sport so that more people can watch and join the sport.

Now, when fencing, Huang practices slowing down each movement so she can notice what is working and strategize her next step. On Jan. 22, she was able to achieve this state of focus at the Sixth Annual Sword in the Stone tournament, where she placed second in the Junior Women’s Saber event. These strategies that she has learned from her fencing tournaments will be used to fence the best she can at the Junior Olympics on Feb. 19.