As Auset Muhammad’s father Malcolm surfed the web, he called her over to his seat at the computer.
“‘Hey Auset, do you want to do fencing?’” Malcolm said to then 8-year-old Auset.
Immediately, Muhammad thought she was going to be driving around the southside of Chicago to build fences. Her father then pulled up an image of two fencers in the middle of an exchange from the 2004 Olympics.
The image sparked her interest and led to her pursuing a career in the sport.
“After my first couple fencing classes, I was just like ‘Wow, I absolutely love this sport,’” Muhammad said.
Muhammad’s family lives in Chicago, but they won’t have to travel far this weekend for the Northwestern Duals in Evanston, Illinois.
Her family traveled to Philadelphia for the Temple Open in 2015 to watch her compete in her first meet as a freshman.
“I know they’re just itching for Northwestern Duals right now, because they haven’t physically been there and watched me fence in about a year and a half,” Muhammad said.
Muhammad’s father isn’t shy while he watches his daughter fence. He lets his voice be heard, motivates and often attempts to help Muhammad with some of their own codewords during a match.
“K.I.S.S.!,” which stands for “Keep It Simple, Stupid” is one of the sayings he screams from the crowd during the matches.
While coach Nikki Franke handles Muhammad’s form and technique as a fencer, her father keeps her motivated.
Early in Muhammad’s career, she faced a lot of adversity and went through three different coaches who all attempted to change her fencing style. Muhammad’s style was based on footwork, while fencers in the Midwest predominantly based their styles on bladework, she said.
Muhammad changed her technique with her second coach, but noticed a regression in her fencing ability, so went back to what was natural for her.
“My dad was really my main coach throughout my fencing career,” Muhammad said. “Despite all the coaches I’ve been to and worked with, he was the one person that was with me throughout my whole fencing career. And honestly, I very much believe without him I would not be fencing at a D-I school.”
Prior to fencing, Muhammad practiced jiu-jitsu for a year, which she said jumpstarted her fencing career.
As a 12-year-old, Muhammad competed against fencers her own age, but was not challenged. Her parents sent her to Northwestern University women’s fencing camps, where she fenced against college competitors as a teenager.
As a freshman at Temple, Muhammad won more than 65 percent of her dual meet matches and posted an overall record of 28-15. She’ll return to Northwestern on Saturday and Sunday for the Owls’ next dual meet, where she’ll be in a comfortable environment.
“It’s always nice to be close to home and to have family and friends there to support you,” Franke said. “We travel all over the country competing, so when we do have either a home meet or a meet in one of the girl’s homes it’s great to have that extra support.”
“It’s not just good for Auset, but it’s good for her parents to be able to see her compete because they don’t get to see her very often,” she added.
Tom Ignudo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Ignudo5.