Temple fencing senior graduates to international competition

Blessing Olaode will compete for the Nigerian national fencing team after graduation.

Sabres Blessing Olaode (left) and Jessica Rockford practice at the Student Pavilion on Feb. 22, 2018. | ALEX ST. CLAIR / FILE PHOTO

Even though Blessing Olaode has spent most of her life in the United States, she considers Nigeria her home.

Next month, the senior Temple University sabre will fence for Nigeria at the African Zonal Championships. Olaode hopes to fence for Nigeria for the next three or four years to raise its international fencing profile.

Olaode was born in Nigeria and holds dual citizenship with the United States and Nigeria. She lived there until she moved to New Jersey with her family when she was 4 years old.

“It’s very humbling,” Olaode said. “It does have an added level of pressure. It makes me want to do that much better because I’m fencing for Nigeria. Nigeria doesn’t really have a stake in the fencing world. I want to be able to pave that path for other people.”

The sabre began competing for the Nigerian women’s fencing team in June 2018. Olaode won four out of five bouts in the pool round at the 2018 Senior African Championships in Tunis, Tunisia, and finished sixth overall in the sabre competition.

Olaode also went to the 2019 Seoul Fencing Grand Prix from April 26-28 in South Korea. Olaode lost all six bouts in pool round and finished 145th out of 155 fencers. She also competed at the Sabre World Cup on January 25 in Salt Lake City, Utah. Olaode faced former Temple fencer Fatima Largaespada at that competition.

Olaode wants to finish in the top three in the African Zonal Championships in June.

“If I were to win, I would want to win for Nigeria,” Olaode said. “If I were to lose, I would want to lose for Nigeria because I just kind of have that attachment to Nigeria.”

Olaode is not the only Temple fencer to compete internationally. Junior sabre Kerry Plunkett, junior foil Kennedy Lovelace and junior sabre Malia Hee have all performed in international competitions. Lovelace and Hee have represented America, while Plunkett has fenced for Great Britain.

Fencing at Temple has prepared Olaode for international competitions because she practiced against her teammates who competed internationally, she said.

“They’re experienced fencers, so fencing them gives me that kind of experience,” Olaode said. “They’re also very supportive. They’ve been through the process before, so they were able to tell me what to expect and how to deal with everything that’s going on.”

Olaode finished her career at Temple with a record of 149-93 in dual meets. Olaode won first place in the individual sabre competition at the NCAA Mid-Atlantic/South Regional to clinch her first appearance at the NCAA Championships. She competed at the championships with Plunkett and Lovelace. Olaode placed 12th and earned All-American honorable mentions.

The Owls will miss Olaode’s leadership, coach Nikki Franke said. Olaode was the sabre squad captain her junior year and the team captain this past season.

“She has a very strong work ethic,” Franke said. “She’s extremely responsible. She has shown great leadership the past two years when she’s been in the position of leadership. …It was such a benefit to the team having her leadership and setting the right example for everyone.”

Olaode will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in neuroscience. She plans to attend a graduate program at Rutgers University in New Jersey.

As she moves to other endeavors, Olaode is fond of her time at Temple.

“It’s been an amazing experience,” Olaode said. “I got to know four groups of amazing girls and had that connection with everyone. …I made a lot of connections and have that network now that I can always fall back on.”

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