BY NICOLE JOMANTAS
(Long Beach, Calif.) – Nine women and seven men will represent Team USA in the table of 64 at the Absolute Fencing Gear® FIE Grand Prix Long Beach on Saturday.
Forty U.S. fencers competed in the first day of competition at the Long Beach Convention Center with six additional members of Team USA qualifying automatically for the table of 64 due to their top-16 world rankings.
In the men’s event, 2015 Cadet World Champion Sam Moelis (Hewlett, N.Y.) qualified for the table of 64 for the first time at a senior international event after finishing 6-0 in the pool rounds at his first Grand Prix.
“It’s really unbelievable. I’m warming up next to these big guys I’ve watched on YouTube since I was 9 or 10 years old. I felt lucky enough to be able to come here and fence pools with these guys, let alone possibly be able to fence DEs with these guys,” said Moelis who won the 2015 USA Fencing Division I National title as a 16 year old, but has only fenced in two Senior World Cups.
Moelis posted a +15 indicator to finish fourth in the rankings after the pool rounds and earn the No. 20 seed in the direct elimination tables.
Prior to competing at the Grand Prix, Moelis took to heart advice he received from two of the top seniors on the circuit.
“I’ve worked with Race Imboden for a long time and Alexander Choupenitch a lot. One of the things they both have said on separate occasions was that I’m too uptight, I have to relax, I’m preparing too much. So yesterday, Choupenitch asked me if I maybe wanted to go to Santa Monica and relax a little bit,” said Moelis who originally protested the excursion. “He said: ‘You have to relax, we’re going to have a good time.’ We got a car, we drove to Santa Monica and walked around the pier, went shopping a bit and looked around. I think that was enough to take my mind off fencing for a little bit when I would normally just be in my hotel room and super uptight worrying about the next day.”
This is the third of five major tournaments in just over a month for Moelis who won bronze at the Pan Am Junior Championships at the start of March and took gold at the NCAA Northeast Regional to qualify for the NCAA Championships as a freshman at Columbia. Following the NCAAs in Indianapolis next week, Moelis will board a plane for the Junior World Championships in Plovdiv, Bulgaria.
“I was originally nervous at first that physically it would be a lot. But, what I’ve come to understand is that there could actually be no better preparation for a World Championships or each competition than having all of these competitions every step of the way, with a little bit of a break in between, because it gives me the opportunity to make those little adjustments without getting out of the moment,” Moelis said. “So, I fence one weekend; I have three days off to recover, to understand, to remember. Then I go to the next one, making the adjustment that was the reason I didn’t do as well the competition before.