James Weiss C’14

The sophomore fencing star on his weapon of choice, his unorthodox sport and his secret to success.

In November, Weiss finished eighth in junior men’s foil at USAF’s North American Cup in Austin, Texas. Photo by Bill Cardoni.

By Christopher Hann

Why the foil, instead of the épée or saber?
It was actually the one I started with. When I began in instructional league, that was the one the instructor put in my hand. As time went on, I really grew to love this weapon more than the other two.

The game is different in foil. It has this thing called right of way, which is all about finding energy between your opponent and yourself and figuring when it’s appropriate to attack. I think it’s more challenging than the other two weapons. The target area is just the torso, the side and the back.

You were 57 and 5 last season, one of the best individual records in Drew fencing history. Do you still find yourself explaining your sport to your classmates?
Oh, yeah, absolutely. It’s an acquired taste for a lot of people. They’re interested by it, but it’s difficult to understand. I find it difficult to verbalize what goes on in a bout.

What’s the secret to being a great foil fencer?
Wow, that’s a really tough question. I think it comes down to smart fencing. Fencing is often referred to as physical chess, and it really is.

At the European Maccabi Games in Vienna last summer, you received an individual gold medal, a team gold, an individual silver and a team bronze. Do you prepare any differently for fencing in an international competition?
I think I treat every competition as if it was the highest level possible. Only because I know that’s when my best fencing is going to come out.

You finished 19th nationally last spring. How much better can you get in the next three seasons?
I want to go until I can’t go any farther, and I think I’m miles away from that.

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