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Harvard fencer heads for Olympics

first_img Touché: Harvard fencing “He had an immediate impact on the program right from Day One,” said Brand, who is in his 16th year with the Harvard program and who has coached three other Harvard Olympic fencers, including Emily Cross ’09, a silver medalist with the U.S. women’s foil fencing team at the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing. Not only was Dershwitz “an excellent individual fencer,” said Brand, “but he was an excellent team person, which is sometimes very difficult to find in an individual sport like fencing.”Dershwitz honed his drive and devotion after taking up the sport at age 9, eager to emulate his older brother, Philip, whose regular routs and hard hits brought him to tears but strengthened his resolve. “[Philip] really pushed me to be better; he was a great role model,” said Dershwitz. “He also made me want to push myself even harder.”As Dershwitz excelled with his sword, other sports fell away. In high school he committed himself exclusively to fencing, traveling to competitions and working with his coach to “to compete at a higher level.” The commitment paid off. In 2015 he won gold at the Junior World Championship in the saber, as well as gold at the Pan American Championships. He sealed his spot on the Olympic team with another gold medal finish at the Grand Prix in Seoul in March, one of a series of fencing’s senior world cup events.“I am really happy to be able to represent my county and my school,” said 20-year-old Eli Dershwitz. Rose Lincoln/Harvard Staff PhotographerCompetitive fencing includes the foil, the épée, and the saber. Each comes with its own style and rules. Saber fencing involves the smallest of the three blades. Unlike épée or foil fencers, saber fencers can use the edge as well as the tip of their weapons to score points or “touches” against their opponents. The target area for the saber is the body above the waist, excluding the hands. The winner of a match is the fencer who scores 15 points or who has the most points when the three-minute match expires. Saber fencing is considered the most aggressive of the three weapon styles, with quick cutting and slashing motions and explosive movements that are key to victory.“It’s a lot faster-paced — fast reactions, fast touches, a lot of sprints,” said Dershwitz, who loves the saber’s mix of speed and complexity. “That always got to me, the amount of physical and mental ability it took at the same time, to be able to be explosive but also to be able to react quickly to what your opponent was doing.”These days a typical Olympic workout for Dershwitz includes a morning routine of weights, endurance training, and sprints, one-on-one training with his coach in the afternoon, and 2½ hours of fencing at night. When he wants to relax, the Sherborn, Mass., native often heads back to Cambridge to train or just kick back with friends. “Living so close to Harvard and being so close to all my friends and roommates from last year, it’s definitely been a big support.”Many of Dershwitz’s Crimson teammates will travel to Rio to watch him compete, including Duncan O’Brien ’16, who trained at the same fencing club where he watched Dershwitz blossom into “an unbelievable talent.” He would arrive early to jog, stretch, and practice his footwork, and he “wanted to fence until the coach turned the lights off … he inspired everyone,” recalled O’Brien, who encouraged Dershwitz to apply to Harvard.Between schoolwork and fencing for Harvard and in international competitions, freshman year was “very hectic,” said Dershwitz. He credits his family and friends with helping him through and supporting his Olympic dream. The final step is to just do his best in Brazil.“I want to look back and say I gave it everything I had … and hopefully,” he said, “I come back with a medal.”The Olympic men’s saber competition will be lived streamed at nbcolympics.com. There’s “no crying in baseball,” actor Tom Hanks famously quipped in the 1992 film “A League of Their Own,” but some fencers have been known to shed a tear. Just ask Eli Dershwitz.The Harvard undergraduate admits he has “teared up” while watching Team USA during the last three Olympic opening ceremonies. There’s a good chance he’ll be emotional again when the games kick off in Brazil next month, but this time he’ll be in the procession.Tears of joy could flow for the youngest member of the U.S. Olympic men’s fencing team during the competition as well. As the top-ranked saber fencer in the United States and current tie for 11th in the world, Dershwitz, 20, will begin his quest for a medal on Aug. 10 at the Carioca Arena 3 in Rio de Janeiro.“A lot of things have fallen into place; a lot people have helped me along the way, and I am really happy to be able to represent my country and my school this summer,” said Dershwitz, a rising sophomore who fenced for the Crimson as a freshman before taking a year off to train in his sport full-time. “I am just looking forward to putting all the hard work and dedication, all the hours of blood, sweat, and tears over the years … into one great tournament.”For many participants, those years of training culminate in a tournament that ends in a flash. Fencing matches last a maximum of three minutes, but their lightning-fast pace means bouts are often decided in 60 seconds, sometimes fewer.“You prepare yourself for four, eight, 12 years to get this one shot at the Olympic Games … and in a lot of cases you end up fencing that one match and you’re out,” said Harvard’s head fencing coach, Peter Brand, who recruited Dershwitz. The single-elimination Olympic saber competition will begin with 32 competitors and end with just two thrusting and slashing along the piste, or fencing strip, in pursuit of the gold.Eli Dershwitz is the No. 1 ranked saber fencer in the U.S., and currently tied for 11th in the world. Rose Lincoln/Harvard Staff PhotographerBrand calls Dershwitz the kind of fencer you see “once maybe every 100 years,” and predicts he has a good shot at the podium.“Eli is an absolute phenom. I’ve never seen anything like it before.”Experts agree it’s unusual for such a young fencer to succeed in the senior ranks; most who excel at the sport typically peak in their late 20s. Dedication, talent, and hard work have all fueled Dershwitz’s swift success, said Brand, but it’s his mental toughness that sets him apart.“That’s something you can’t teach, and he’s just wired that way,” said Brand. “He does not get rattled.”Dershwitz’s composure was key during the Crimson’s 2014-15 season, when he helped the men’s team lift the Ivy League title. He performed as both a fencer and coach, competing and leading footwork sessions during practice for his fellow fencers.center_img Relatedlast_img read more

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Sturridge could face Everton

first_imgLiverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has not given up hope of Daniel Sturridge playing some part in the Merseyside derby. Press Association The England striker has been sorely missed by the Reds since sustaining a thigh injury on international duty earlier this month but is inching ever closer to a comeback. In his absence Rodgers’ side have lost to Aston Villa and West Ham, snuck a last-gasp win over Ludogorets in the Champions League and required penalties to see off Middlesbrough in the Capital One Cup. The 19-year-old forward, whose contract at Anfield runs until 2017, is one of the brightest young talents in the Premier League and has had an impressive start to the season but his manager is not losing sleep over the reported interest. “It shows that he’s playing exceptionally well,” said Rodgers. “I think you could probably link Raheem with every club in the world at the moment. He’s a fantastic young talent. “I’ve nothing really to add to it. There’s obviously lots of speculation every day about players coming and going here at Liverpool. “He’s a wonderful boy who’s developing very, very well here. I think him and his representatives and the people close to him know how comfortable he is here and I’m sure at some point in the future, whatever contract we’re looking to work with will be sorted, but he’s still got three years left and there’s no rush from my perspective.” They would dearly love to unleash the 25-year-old against their neighbours at Anfield but although Rodgers was upbeat about his recovery, an appearance this weekend appears to be based on hope as much as expectation. “We’ll be very happy to have him back and we hope that can be this weekend,” said the Northern Irishman. “We’ve got a number of injuries that we’re going to give every chance to. “He (Sturridge) is a player who’s out on the field working. Him and a number of others we’ll just assess nearer the time. But if he doesn’t make it he won’t be far off after that. “He’s someone that responds well to treatment. Obviously it’s gone well but there are still a couple of days to go before the game. The most important thing is he’s near to fitness. “He certainly won’t be match-fit, he hasn’t played for a few weeks, but it’ll be great to have him back because he’s a wonderful player for us. “He’s a great reference for our team at the top of the field, his pace and movement and quality, which we saw the last time he played against Tottenham.” Another of Rodgers’ talented young England stars, Raheem Sterling, has been linked this week with Spanish giants Real Madrid. last_img read more

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