Student fencer competing in Germany, hopes to win medal

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Senior Andrew Hirschfeld will be fencing in the European Maccabi games in Berlin, Germany this July. 

Hirschfeld says he is honored to be chosen for Team USA, especially because this competition is exclusively for Jewish fencers.

There are three types of fencing: foil, epee and saber. Hirschfeld is on the foil team.

“I take this very seriously, but I feel lucky because I have sixteen years of experience on my side,” Hirschfeld said.

Hirschfeld has competed in foil fencing exclusively in several national competitions in places from Portland, Ore. to Boston.

Hirschfeld has also competed in international competitions including in Paris and Minsk, Belarus. Hirschfeld has been a foil fencer since he started fencing at Salle Mauro Fencing Academy in Houston, where he worked with peers who compete nationally and around the world.

Hirschfeld says that in that environment, ultra competitive fencing was the norm and has since became a way of life. Although St. Edward’s University does not have a fencing team, Hirschfeld has found opportunities to train with Gary Vanderwege.

Vanderwege  teaches a kinesiology fencing course at St. Edward’s and is a former Olympic fencer who competed in Athens and London. Vanderwege is very familiar with the international stage.

“One of the greatest highs of an athlete’s career is to be able to represent their country in international competition. It is both an honor and a responsibility to perform with class and sportsmanship,” Vanderwege said.

In addition, Hirschfeld joins fencers from the University of Texas at Austin, Texas State University, Austin Fencers Club and Texas Fencing Academy.

Hirschfeld not only works on his performance but mentors three young fencers.

“I love working with these kids because they are very passionate at the same level that I was at their age,” he said. “I can tell they are learning in the same way I did and I find that very fulfilling.”

Hirschfeld has used as many different outlets as possible to train for July’s competition. Kevin Nadeau, who fenced for The University of North Carolina, confirms Hirschfeld’s dedication.

“These games are a big deal. Andy is a tough competitor and he’s training hard to get ready, but on a stage this big talent can only take him so far,” Nadeau, one of Hirschfeld’s coaches, said.

Nadeau adds that with Hirschfeld’s mentality going into this competition, along with his no-second-chances attitude, makes him a strong pick.

According to the Maccabi USA website, the event for Jewish fencers is held in Berlin because Jewish athletes were not allowed to compete in the Olympics in 1936. Holding the games in Berlin is meant to “promote tolerance and openness against anti-Semitism and racism.”

“The great thing about this competition, specifically, is that I get to do something I love while also representing the social justice values that (St. Edward’s) represents,” Hirschfeld said.