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. Related
THE Youth Basketball Guyana (YBG) National Schools Basketball Festival (NSBF) U-19 quarterfinals showcased the best of the U-19 talent on the local circuit.There were three games played on the night, one blowout, one close encounter and one nail-biter that proved to be the game everyone was waiting to witness the entire tournament.In the first game of the night, Kwakwani Secondary made light work of Mackenzie High blowing them out of the water to show why they were defending champions winning 61-28. Led by the triple threat of national guards in Troy David, Stanton Rose and Damair Gladstone who had 10, 12 and 11 points respectively, the team cruised to victory. Kemmol Benjamin, Dillon Wallace and Jamal Gilkes registered 9, 7 and 6 points in the win also. For the outmatched Mackenzie side, Tim Veshon scored 8 points with Daniel Anthony supporting him with 7 points.The second encounter saw Linden Technical Institute spoiling the coming-out party for Jaleel Duke and his President’s College side in a game that finished 47-33. Led by Akinni Wilson’s 13, LTI continued their tradition of advancing to the final rounds to compete for a title. From the outset, President’s College, pushing the tempo and looking very threatening, while doing so behind Duke’s quick scoring.However, the tide soon changed as the Linden side started to lock down on defence and convert on offence. For Akinni, it was balanced scoring with an inside-out approach – whatever the defence gave him he took. He was supported by Tahquille Johnson’s 9. On the President’s College side, Jaleel Duke posted 14 points in the losing effort with Anton Fileen contributing 11.Sherland Gillis at line to close out the win for NAMS (Daniel Haynes photos)The final game of the night was definitely the one fans paid their money to see. New Amsterdam Multilateral Secondary (NAMS) took on St Rose’s High and won in a game that went into overtime and finished 36-29.From the tip, both teams seemed evenly matched, trading baskets after the initial feel-out process was over. It was not just a battle of big men and point guards, but a battle of coaches, with Rose’s Courtenay Taylor and NAMS Willon Cameron having both coached alongside each other at the National level.The battle of the ‘bigs’ that was expected turned out to be the mitigating factor with NAMS’ Neil Wills, and Sherland Gillis contributing 10 points each for their side, with points coming at crucial moments. For Rose’s it was the duo of Akil Vaughn and Leon Ross who held the offensive giant Wills to such a low total.Gillis was the X Factor for the NAMS side, and he seemed to find himself making the right basketball plays at the right moments. The first being a steal with seconds to go in the game leading to him being fouled and able to put away the game at the free throw line after Rose’s took the lead with a minute to go.For Rose’s it was Shamar Huntley whose 15 points stood out in the losing effort. There was much to be taken away from the game as in the overtime period the three-point shooting of Rose’s went awry. There were missed calls on both ends and the foul game ultimately contributed to the game’s outcome.Akinni Vaugn making a move for two of his points.Gillis was once again put at the line and made them count for the win. Coach Willon Cameron on how the win came to be stated “It was wanting it at all times, we fight and that’s what we’re about.”AN emotional coach Taylor also gave his input stating, “It was always going to be a competitive game given the fact both teams are similar in their make-up and how they play.”“The teams know each other as well through the friendship developed over the years but what played the separator in the teams was the officiating,” continued Taylor.The semi-final rounds tip off today and promise much more action. The tournament is sponsored by Digicel, Banks DIH Limited and Beharry Group of Companies.