With the 2014 Junior Olympics only days away, Petra Khan will finally be home.
The annual event, which takes place Feb. 14-17 in Portland, Ore., is a short trip from the sophomore sabre’s hometown of Beaverton, Ore.
“It will be nice because I get to sleep in my own bed the day before my tournament so I think that is also something comforting to me – being home and going straight to the venue,” Khan said.
Khan is one of three Temple fencers that qualified for the tournament. Freshman épée Alexandra Keft and freshman foil Miranda Litzinger will join Khan on the journey west to compete.
With the stiff qualifying standards, making the tournament wasn’t easy. A fencer qualifies based on national points accumulated through North American Cup events or through the state/regional qualifier, resulting in some of the best young fencers in the country headed to Portland.
“A lot of good fencers show up and it is good competition and when you do well in them it is very satisfying because you know you’ve worked all this time to get to where you want to be,” Keft said.
With the team’s busy schedule, there will be no change in its training for the Junior Olympics, coach Nikki Franke said.
“It will be no differently than [how] we’ve been preparing,” Franke said. “We’ve had meets every weekend so they’ve been working every weekend for a meet so it is no different than our normal preparation.”
But an event like the Junior Olympics does come with some pressure.
“I try not to think about it,” Khan said. “So the night before I try to just keep my mind off of it completely because if I think about that it is [Junior Olympics], this is what ends our national season, it stresses me out a bit. I try to take my mind off it completely till the next day when I am fencing.”
The pressure comes with being different than a normal Division I tournament. The Junior Olympics uses 15 touch bouts, instead of five touch. It is also single elimination after advancing through pool play. The little things are what makes a big difference, Franke said.
“In five touch you can get away with doing similar things but with 15 there is enough time for another fencer to react and to adjust to what you’ve done,” Franke said. “Then you have to adjust to their adjustment.”
Even though the event is individually-based, fencers say they will be competing for Temple.
“I’ll represent the school that has given me all these opportunities to fence and hopefully I’ll have a good result,” Keft said.
“When I’m at [Junior Olympics] and I have my Temple thing it signifies that I’ve made it out of high school,” Keft added. “I feel really proud that I actually got to make it to a Division I program and represent something a little better than myself.”
For Khan, it is an opportunity to show her improvement on and off the fencing strip.
“I’ve just gotten a lot more mature as a person, which has affected my fencing and work ethic while I’m at practice and I’ve been working harder than ever before, thinking about fencing and appreciating it a lot more,” Khan said.
Michael Guise can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @Mikeg2511.