RYE, N.Y. -- Rye fencers Sara and Francesca Brizio, ages 16 and 13, respectively, have qualified for the Junior Olympics and will compete in Kansas City, Mo., Feb. 17 - 20.
The Brizio sisters have been fencing for seven years. Sara began fencing after her parents brought her to a fencing exhibition at New Amsterdam Fencing Academy (NAFA) North in Port Chester, according to a release.
"Ever since then, I have loved the sport," said Sara, "I had tried other sports, but none of them really felt right." Younger sister Francesca got hooked, too.
"I love the mental aspect of fencing," Sara said. "You need to understand the person you're fencing because your results don't only depend on your performance. Even if you are extremely quick, you can still lose because the other fencer out-smarted you," she continued. "The sport allows me to strategize and come up with new ideas and tactics all the time. You have to be constantly vigilant that the other fencer doesn't get the upper hand, both physically and mentally."
Both teens began their fencing careers with, and still train at, NAFA North, the release said. "Because it is smaller than many clubs, you can really make strong bonds, and feel like you're part of the whole team and grow together," said Francesca.
Sara added, "I love the people at NAFA North. My coach, Joe Fisher, is extremely understanding. We all work together to create exercises and drills, and we can speak out about what we find is lacking in our fencing. The kids here are also really supportive. At tournaments, we're always cheering each other on and taking care of each other if one of us gets injured. NAFA North has given me the opportunity to make so many new friends and find people who encourage me to be the best fencer I can be."
Sara said her strategy for success at the Junior Olympics is to "get the right training in beforehand to perfect her timing and skills, and during the tournament to have a positive attitude and dig deep to keep fighting when she feels tired or defeated."
Francesca's strategy is to "have a good mindset and use familiar tactics to keep control of her bouts."
Both teens fence with a weapon called a foil and will compete in both the U17 (under age 17) and the U20 (under age 20) categories.