Owls’ fencer could be first to compete in Olympics

Ross would compete as a modern pentathlete, participating in fencing, freestyle swimming, equestrian show jumping, pistol shooting and cross country.

Junior epee Naomi Ross practices with a coach at the Temple University Pavilion on Nov. 14, 2019. | COLLEEN CLAGGETT / THE TEMPLE NEWS

When junior epeeist Naomi Ross found out she had a chance to compete in the 2021 Olympics, she immediately thought about the people who helped her get to this point, she said. 

“My family’s done a lot,” Ross added. “It’s definitely not an easy sport, fencing or pentathlon to deal with just because there’s so much stuff that goes into it. So they’ve definitely been a lot of help, you know, financially, mentally and like emotionally they’ve been there.”

While fencing for the Owls this season, Ross will also spend time working with coaches in preparation for the 2021 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, where she would represent the United States as a modern pentathlete, competing in fencing, freestyle swimming, equestrian show jumping, pistol shooting and cross country if she is chosen to compete. 

Ross would be the first Temple University fencer to compete in the Olympics, said head coach Nikki Franke. 

It’s well deserved, she has worked very hard, and had to do a lot on her own,” Franke said.

The Olympics were delayed in July due to the COVID-19 pandemic but are scheduled to take place in July of 2021, The New York Times reported. 

The U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee and other national governing bodies designated Ross as “elite” on Oct. 29, recognizing her as a potential U.S. Olympian in 2021.

“It means a lot, it’s nice to know that I’m recognized with the work I put in,” Ross said. “Hopefully others will see that too.”

Ross ranked sixth in the Senior USA Modern Pentathlon rankings in 2019 and finished first at both the third and fourth Colorado Cups that year. 

The start of the fencing season has yet to be announced, but the 2021 NCAA Championships will be held on Pennsylvania State University’s campus in State College, Pennsylvania. 

As a fencer for the Owls last season, Ross posted a record of 9-0 at the Elite Meet hosted by Penn, earned a season-high 18 wins at the Northwestern Duals and posted an overall record of 49-22 in dual play. 

Ross is being “proactive” to schedule her training ahead of time due to places she would train like Temple Sports Complex being closed or McGonigle Hall having limited capacity due to the COVID-19 protocols, she said.

Currently, Ross is swimming at McGonigle Hall while training for running at Fairmount Park. She doesn’t have a specific place to practice her shooting because it’s been hard to find a shooting range that is open, she said.

COVID-19 restrictions make practicing “complex” because the Owls are learning to fence with a mask on, said senior captain epeeist Marielle Luke. 

The team trains in small groups instead of as a full team and everyone was tested for COVID-19 prior to returning to practice in the fall, Luke added. 

“We got off to kind of a slow start,” Luke said. “We weren’t really allowed to have group gatherings, obviously, but now that we’ve like the whole team has been tested we’re all negative, we’re making sure we’re doing everything we can.” 

Luke believes Ross is performing well during practices so far this year, she said. 

“Naomi has really flourished I think, she overcomes all the obstacles and we’re all practicing at 100 percent,” Luke added.

Besides making it to the Olympics, Ross wants to compete in the NCAA Championships for fencing, which was canceled last season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“For this year I’m hoping to get back to where I was and hopefully we’ll have a season and I can requalify,” Ross said. 

Ross will be one of the team’s leaders this season even though she is not listed as a captain, Franke said. 

“We’re going to be depending on her, and you know hopefully we will have a spring season so that she’ll have a chance to compete,” Franke added. 

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