Nathan Schlesinger calls his fencing uniform a “death suit.”
Beneath his armor — a jacket, underarm protector, lamé, knickers, body cord, gloves, T-shirt, mask, bib and red-and-white knee-high socks — sweat beads slide down the 12-year-old’s forehead by the dozen as he dances back and forth in a practice bout, or match. Yes, the equipment is a little cumbersome, but it’s only the fencing that matters to him.
“It’s the thrill and the rush of all the action,” Nathan says. “There’s a tactical, strategic and mental aspect to it — it’s not the biggest, strongest guy who wins. It’s not easy or laidback, and it’s definitely not a sport for little girls.”
When his parents suggested last summer that Nathan become involved in sports, the family researched summer camps and found the Sarasota Fencing Academy and Club and its founder, Rich Georgia.
Just six months after enrolling in lessons at the academy, Nathan, a seventh-grader at Pine View, captured a silver medal at the Miami Madness Fencing Tournament, held Feb. 27. He placed second out of 29 foil-fencing competitors in the 14-and-under division, and he came within three points of taking the gold against two-year Miami youth fencing veteran, Lorenzo Gonzales. Nathan was narrowly edged out with a final score of 12 to 15, but he felt fairly confident throughout the tournament.
“I think if my dad had come, he definitely would have enjoyed me kicking my opponents’ butts,” Nathan said. “Two of them were from the Masters Fencing Club. I stepped right up there and totally gave them a slap in the face that we (Sarasota Fencing Academy and Club) exist.”
Underneath his fencing uniform, Nathan sports the academy’s T-shirt, on which arguably the most famous quote from a fencing scene in the movie “The Princess Bride” is printed: “My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”
“I’m definitely a ‘Princess Bride’ fan,” he says. “It’s the fencing scene that’s my favorite because it’s fun to watch. When I first saw it, I thought, ‘That doesn’t look too hard, why can’t I try that?’ That’s really what influenced me to start fencing. I guess it just comes naturally to some people.”
Nathan has also recently qualified for the United States Fencing Association Summer Nationals, to be held July 4 to July 13, in Atlanta.
“Fencing is something I can really succeed in and consider doing for possibly the rest of my life,” he said.
“Maybe if I retire as a fencer, I could continue as a tournament director. I really just love the sport.”
Fence for Yourself
Sarasota Fencing Academy and Club
Address: 1646 10th Way, Sarasota
Contact: Call 346-0637 or visit www.sarasotafencing.com for a complete list of classes.
Adult intro to fencing: A six-week session offered from 6 to 7 p.m. Mondays or Wednesdays for ages 14 and older. The cost is $155 with all fencing equipment provided.
Contact Loren Mayo at [email protected].