Natalia Patterson: The Junior Olympic Fencer

By: Leila Rocha

While most BHS students were in class working, Sophomore, Natalia Patterson, was fencing in the Junior Olympics. Fencing has been a part of the Summer Olympics since 1896. Britannica describes the sport to be an ¨organized sport involving the use of a sword.¨

As always, you must get a start doing your favorite sport or activity somehow. There are many things that can inspire someone to take up a new sport. In an interview conducted by the Paw, Patterson discussed her experience as a Junior Olympic Fencer. When asked about the start of her fencing career, Patterson stated. ¨I started fencing about three years ago after reading Alexandre Dumas´ The Three Musketeers. When I fenced, I felt like the book’s main character, d´Artagnan, so I decided to work hard to progress at the sport.¨ 

In order to make it to the Junior Olympics, Patterson had to compete in the divisional qualifier event, and place in the top three. In regards to the Junior Olympics being in Utah, Patterson said, ¨Although I prefer competing close to home because I miss my cat and dog when I’m away, I enjoy traveling and experiencing new places. It was fun to visit Salt Lake City, and me and my family went to see the Great Salt Lake, which was really cool.¨ 

In any competition, you have some competitors that are harder than others. In this case, the age division in which Patterson competed was 13-19; meaning Patterson had to compete against college students. Aside from the wide age range, Patterson explained, ¨I especially had trouble with one quick left-handed fencer because lefties are harder to score on due to the way their body is positioned in relation to their arm.¨ Left-handed fencers have been proven to have an advantage since the sixteenth century. Laterality researchers call this a ¨frequency-dependent¨ effect. However, Patterson, who is right-handed, was still focused on scoring points and being at the Junior Olympics. ¨My mind was mostly focused on what I needed to do to execute a strong action that will score me the next point, but I also occasionally thought about how cool it was to be fencing in the JOs and how much fun it was!¨

Before going up against tough college-aged competitors, Patterson described her pre-game ritual, ¨The night before every competition, I eat salmon for dinner, not as much to help my performance as to put me in a good mood because it is my favorite dish. About an hour before the competition’s start time, I come to the venue and warm up, leaving my jacket on even if I feel hot because it helps me get used to the temperature that my body will be at after putting on my protective equipment.¨

Patterson’s hard work and intense focus resulted in an accomplishment, ¨Although I didn’t medal in the competition, I made the cut after the preliminary round for the first time at a national-level tournament.¨ She also said, ¨To celebrate, I got dinner with my family after the competition was over. Also, my dad bought me the 2022 Junior Olympics shirt that was being sold at the competition.¨

Securing a spot in the Junior Olympics for any sport is a major accomplishment in athletes’ life. Patterson’s talent in the fencing category highlights how much of a hard worker she is. Benicia High is proud to have a Junior Olympic fencer. In conclusion, Patterson advised, ¨To people who are interested in starting fencing, I would recommend being ready to work hard to achieve goals because locking in the basics of fencing takes time and lots of practice. Even so, it is a lot of fun!¨

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