Junior Aziza Hassan took up fencing when she was about 11 years old at the request of her mother.
At the time, she had no idea what fencing was but agreed to her mother’s wishes.
In her hometown of Brooklyn, NY, she joined the Peter Westbrook Foundation.
The organization was founded in 1991 by 1984 Olympic bronze medalist Peter Westbrook to help inner-city kids realize their fencing potential.
It was here Hassan met other fencers that she considered role models, including 2000 sabre Olympians Keeth Smart and Akhnaten (Akhi) Spencer-El, and St. John’s University senior Ivan Lee, the 2001 NCAA men’s sabre Champion.
“I felt like I didn’t take fencing seriously until college,” Hassan said.
“You have to dedicate a lot of time to fencing, and I didn’t want to look back and realize that I had missed out on my childhood.
“They started [seriously fencing] from the beginning and that’s why they’re where they’re at today.”
Hassan began taking her fencing more seriously when she switched from foil to sabre one year before beginning college.
Having just been made competitive in women’s sports, the need for female sabreists was on the rise. Her peers and coaches convinced her to change over, and Hassan immediately fell in love with it.
She came to Temple in part for fencing and also for her major.
Currently a journalism major focusing on public relations work, Hassan likes to write and speak and would like to someday get involved in designing jewelry, a hobby she picked up back in high school.
In terms of fencing, entering the higher level of competition was something Hassan had been looking forward to.
She described herself as a very aggressive person, but understands that there is a strategic part to fencing that is just as important as the physical aspects.
“People say that fencing is a physical form of chess,” Hassan said.
“Knowing what your opponents are going to do [is important]. If you’re fencing someone that’s really good, they can switch up [their strategy] at the last minute, so you need to know what they’re going to do.”
Sabre head coach Zoila Palacio has been very pleased with Hassan’s performance over the years and has described her as the “quiet storm” of the team.
“She’s a very calm, laid-back person,” Palacio explained. “But when she gets out on the strip, she’s very aggressive and her skill level is something the team counts on.”
Palacio also noted that Hassan had just recently returned from Orlando, Fla. where she competed in a United States Fencing Association tournament and improved her national classification of an E to a C.
Hassan wanted to do more than just collegiately fence for four years, so she decided to competed in the USFA and hopes to increase her classification to an A within the next two years.
However, Palacio pointed out that in order to do this, Hassan would have to work on keeping her aggression levels constant despite her competition.
By fencing in more competitions outside of the NCAA, she should be able to accomplish her goals.
Collegiately, Hassan has performed outstandingly, winning first place two years in a row at the National Intercollegiate Women’s Fencing Association Christmas Invitational.
Recently, in the Temple Open, Hassan took third place behind teammate Senior Sakinah Shaahid.
Palacio commended Hassan on her vast improvement over the last year, which can be emphasized in comparing this year’s performance at the Open to last year’s, where she placed tenth overall.
Over this past weekend, Hassan placed ninth at the Penn State Open.
Palacio has high expectations for her young “quiet storm.”
“This is going to be an excellent year for her,” she said.
“She will get to show the rest of the world what she can do.”
Steve Papurt can be reached at email@example.com.