The UC San Diego Women's Fencing team has established itself as one of the top programs on the West Coast with six consecutive Intercollegiate Fencing Conference of Southern California (IFCSC) titles. One of the key contributors to the recent portion of that streak has been senior Amy Bianchini, a political science major at Roosevelt College. The owner of a national "B" rating, Bianchini is also captain of the epee squad for Head Coach Heidi Runyan. "Amy is an outstanding strategist on the strip. She understands her opponents' intentions and uses that to her advantage," says Runyan. "But beyond that, she's also an exceptional squad leader. Her interpersonal skills allow her to work hand-in-hand effectively with both the coaching staff and teammates." Following the recent NCAA West Invitational at UCSD, the San Diego native took time to talk in depth about her sport.
Q-When did you become interested in fencing and what spurred your interest?
BIANCHINI-I started fencing when I was 13. I had ice skated for seven years and was looking to find a new sport because I was getting burned out. My mom told me about fencing and at the time, I thought it was pretty nerdy. I decided to try it out and ended up loving it.
Q-Do any other members of your family fence?
BIANCHINI-My dad fences saber. He just started last year and he's already won two national medals in the veteran's category. We have a friendly rivalry now that he has one more national medal than I do.
Q-What role did fencing play in your decision to attend UCSD?
BIANCHINI -Fencing played a huge role in my decision to attend UCSD. I knew I wanted to compete in a sport in college, so I wanted to go to a school that had NCAA fencing.
Q-Your specialty is epee. What distinguishes epee from other weapons and what has made you adept in this discipline?
BIANCHINI -The rules in epee are much different than those in saber and foil and it's really shaped how people fence in their respective weapons. I think epee rules are much less complicated and easier for spectators to understand. There are no "right of way" rules, which can sometimes make it difficult for a spectator to understand who got the touch in a saber or foil bout. epee bouts tend to last longer than bouts in saber and foil. I think my stamina and patience has really helped me fence well in epee.
Q-In what aspect has your fencing improved the most since joining the UCSD team?
BIANCHINI -My fencing has changed substantially, and I would say that I've learned better training skills. I've also learned a lot about proper mindset during competition. Fencing can be very psychological and finding the right mindset during a tournament can be crucial.
Q-Compared to other sports how frequently are fencers injured? Have you ever suffered a serious injury in fencing?
BIANCHINI -I think fencers suffer fewer injuries than the average competitive athlete. I've heard stories about serious accidents that happen every few years in fencing, but these tend to be very rare. I've never been seriously injured while fencing. When I was ice skating I would see people get seriously injured all of the time. It's enjoyable to be able to compete in a sport with such a low risk of injury.
Q-Did you play any other sports in high school?
BIANCHINI -I was captain of the JV tennis team. That was a lot of fun. My dad taught me to play tennis when I was little.
Q-What other sports do you enjoy watching? Do you have a favorite professional sports team?
BIANCHINI -I love football, especially college football, but my favorite professional team would have to be the Chargers. Every year I say that they'll make it to the Super Bowl, even though it hasn't happened since the 1994 season.
Q-What is something that you could tell us about fencing that would surprise the average person?
BIANCHINI -It's easy to learn how to fence. Almost anyone can fence. There's even a wheelchair division. It's more difficult to learn to fence well, but like any sport you can be successful with practice and dedication. I would encourage anyone who is interested to give fencing a try.
Q-You're a political science major at UCSD and on schedule to graduate this year with law school as your next goal. Where does that stand and what do you see in the future career wise?
BIANCHINI -I have a passion for law. My dad is a federal judge and he inspired me to follow in his footsteps. I've already been accepted to a couple of my top choice schools. After law school I want to go somewhere in the United States where legal services are not readily available. There are many communities in Alaska, West Virginia and the Dakotas where people suffer injustice because they cannot find affordable legal help. I also want to work to provide better legal services to veterans.
Q-Has fencing benefitted you in other areas of your life?
BIANCHINI -Fencing has benefited me by teaching me discipline and the value of hard work. So many things are possible if you work hard enough.
Q-Can you see yourself competing in fencing after college?
BIANCHINI -I see myself competing until I'm 70 or 80. There are divisions for people who are 70. It's fantastic that fencing is a lifetime sport.
Q-As a senior what kind of leadership role do you try and play on the team? What are your goals for this year's team?
BIANCHINI -As the squad captain of women's epee I try to set an example by fencing and by showing respect and courtesy to all of my opponents. The goals for this year's team are to take first place in all three weapons at conference and to send a few of our fencers to the NCAA Championships. We are a strong team and I know we can do it.
Q-From a fencing perspective, what would the ideal ending to your collegiate career include?
BIANCHINI -I would love to win another individual conference medal. I would also love to qualify individually for the NCAA Championships. I've had those two personal goals since the beginning of the year and I would feel great if I met both of them.
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