It all started with Lord of the Rings.
“My dad rented me Lord of the Rings when I was 6 years old, and I thought it was the best thing ever and I really wanted to swordfight,” freshman Miranda Litzinger said.
Litzinger, who placed 11th in foil at the 34th annual Temple Open, was introduced to the concept of fencing at a friend’s birthday party. Her friend’s dad was in the Society for Creative Anachronism, so she put on a helmet and hit a pole with the sword.
Her father then started to get magazines of swords. When Litzinger found the sword she wanted, her dad went on eBay and bought it for $60.
“I basically bid every penny I had,” Litzinger said. “My dad let me because he didn’t conceptualize I’d actually win.”
But the sword, which had a hilt with two dragons interwoven with wings as the handle, was useless because it was not balanced correctly.
“It’s a beautiful weapon, but I was crushed,” Litzinger said.
Litzinger, who is a kinesiology pre-health professions major, grew up in San Jose, Calif. Her first fencing lessons came when her mother enrolled her in a fencing class for homeschooled students. Litzinger was homeschooled throughout her educational career before Temple.
“I thought it was awesome,” Litzinger said. “I thought it was really fun. You got a big sword and you get to poke people, which is not correct terminology, but as a kid that is a lot of fun.”
“Being homeschooled varied through different parts of my life,” Litzinger added. “Before the age of 10, we would work through some math textbooks and it was a little bit more formal … I had a rotation of five books and I would read them daily … not a textbook … so that was always interesting.”
The transition from homeschool to college has been tough at times for Litzinger. She said she doesn’t like living in her dorm and she misses her family and friends.
But coach Nikki Franke said she knew what kind of person she was getting when Litzinger decided to come to Temple.
“Miranda is a very hard worker,” Franke said. “She really is very focused. She is a very serious person. We are trying to get her to relax a bit.”
Sometimes, Litzinger said, she misses the homeschool experience itself.
“I miss being able to explore what I want do to and what I want to learn, and I get so jam-packed with busywork,” Litzinger said. “Some of it is very interesting and sometimes you are learning a lot, and sometimes you are just sitting there doing mindless work that is not getting you anywhere, where the time could be spent furthering researching other things you are learning about.”
Before coming to Temple, Litzinger fenced for the California Fencing Academy, where she mostly competed against kids who were years younger than her. Litzinger was forced to fence with her eyes closed at times to work on specific things.
“I really had to focus on what I was doing,” Litzinger said. “My coaches worked with me … basically you have to pick on very specific actions that you are working on and you have to really discipline yourself to only do that.”
Litzinger also coached fencing at her local YMCA. This is where she met Paris, a young girl who, at the age of two, had a brain infection that targeted the problem-solving and coordination parts of her brain. Paris was taking fencing for physical therapy, and the two developed a friendship.
“She was the sweetest and most motivated person I had ever seen, and she worked so much harder than anyone I’ve ever known,” Litzinger said. “And she loved it so much.”
Litzinger, who has qualified for the Junior Olympics for Juniors and Cadets, 16 since she was 11, represent the United States in Budapest, Hungary for a Cadet designated World Cup where she placed 13th.
“I was very proud of that because not only [was I] representing myself, but I was representing the United States,” Litzinger said.
Michael Guise can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @MikeG2511.