About once-a-month (starting this month), we invite a guest blogger, who has been influential in the sport of fencing, to share their insight and perspective on our favorite sport of fencing. This month, as the start of the fencing season is only a week away, we asked Andrey Geva, the U.S. National Coach for women’s epee (and 2016 Olympic coach and head coach and owner of Alliance Fencing Academy in Houston), to answer a few questions about the upcoming season and insight that other fencing fans might have an interest in. Below is the interview.
Q: Can you provide us with a little information about your background as an athlete and as a coach?
Andrey: I started fencing back in the 70’s and was developed into a high level competitive athlete in St. Petersburg, Russia during the Soviet Union. I was a “Master of Sport of the USSR” as well as a member of several national junior and senior squads.
In 1989 I immigrated to Israel where I became a four-time national champion. I have represented Team Israel in numerous World Cups, World Championships, and World University Games. I started my active coaching career at Hebrew University of Jerusalem where I developed 6 national champions, a Cadet World Championships bronze medalist, and several Junior World Cup medalists.
In 1999 I was invited to coach in Houston, TX at local fencing club, and 4 years later, I opened Alliance Fencing Academy. As of today, Alliance Fencing has produced over 30 U.S. National Champions, NCAA champions and medalists, won over a dozen national team titles, 2 Cadet World Champions, and we have over 20 winners and medalists at top international competitions.
I have served as the Team USA national coach for women’s epee since 2013, and in 2016 I served as the head women’s epee coach for the Rio Olympics.
Q: If a young fencer was interested in making the Olympic team, what would be your advice to them?
Andrey: Love the sport, all aspects of it. Train with passion, come to practice 15 minutes earlier and leave 15 minutes later than everyone else. If your coach asks you to do 10 lunges, do 15, if you are asked to fence 15 bouts, fence 20. Watch Olympic videos, read books and articles about Olympians, talk to Olympians and ask them questions. Have ambition to be the best by setting goals to win Olympic medals at the beginning of your fencing career.
Q: What do you see as your top strengths as a U.S. National Coach for women’s epee?
- Successful coaching experience. I have coached for almost 30 years producing national and international champions and medalists
- International exposure and experience. As an athlete and coach I have participated in fencing camps in Soviet Union, Hungary, France, Israel, and Germany. I’ve been in over 20 cadet, junior, and senior World Championships, over 50 World Cups, and one Olympics
- My demeanor is patient, friendly yet demanding, and I bring a structured approach to the training process and strip coaching. I develop an individual approach that varies from one fencer to the other.
Q: What are the biggest challenges for you in coaching a team at the international level?
Andrey: I am used to working with fencers from the very beginning of their career and developing them into high-level mature international athletes. Now, as a national team coach going to international events, I have to deal with fencers who come from different coaching philosophies and I have to create a positive team dynamic so that the entire team is on the same page.
Q: Heading into the 2017-18 season and the 2020 Olympics on the horizon, what are your goals for the U.S. women’s epee team?
Andrey: My goal is to medal in both the individual and team event.
Q: What are your strategies for reaching these goals? (2017-18) and (2020 Olympics) if they are different.
Andrey: For the team event my strategy is to develop “shooting”, “stopping”, and “sniping” skills for my fencers. I also plan to develop an individual strategy for each top team by watching and analyzing their strengths and weaknesses and testing these different strategies during the 2017-18 season in order to determine which one works the best.
For the individual event, my strategy is to analyze the top potential opponents and find what techniques work the best against each of them, as well as develop a general rich fencing arsenal with the Olympians and fencers with whom I work. Finally, I want to fine tune the psychological preparation for my athletes so that when they arrive at the games, they are at the very top of both their physical and mental game.
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