While most teenagers spend April sparring against spring fever in their high school classes, 16-year-old Calvin Liang will be in Bulgaria fighting, literally, for his dreams at the Fencing World Championships.
This is the second world championships Liang, who lives in Chandler, will attend. The championships take place during the first week of April in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, and the highest scoring American in the under-17 category will advance to the Youth Olympic Games.
“I am the only veteran on the squad, and so there is a little bit of added pressure knowing that the other team members are looking to me for advice and to lead them through,” he said.
As a small child, Calvin tried basketball, swimming, tennis and soccer, but none of them really worked out. At 6 1/2 years old, he found his sport when he and his grandfather stumbled on a fencers club.
“We went there and I watched the fencers, and it really just drew me in,” Calvin said. “From the moment I walked in I knew that was the sport I wanted.”
But the fencing club didn’t allow kids younger than 7 to attend classes, and he had to wait to try this new sport.
Now, Calvin has become one of the top fencers in the U17 classification. He placed 18th in the Fencing World Championships last year and third in the Junior Olympics in February.
There are three weapons fencers use — epee, foil and saber — which all have different techniques and target areas on your opponent’s body. Calvin’s weapon of choice, the saber, is used for slashing at any part of the body above the waist.
“I had always watched movies like ‘Peter Pan’ and ‘Pirates of the Caribbean,’ which are sword-oriented,” he said. “I was very inclined to saber because it reminded me most of what inspired me to fence.”
Calvin practices weekdays for at least three hours, but he said he is putting in extra hours for physical and mental practice in preparation for the world championships.
“A lot of people assume that fencing is a constant moving back and forth and just trying to hit your opponent,” he said. “Realistically, it’s a very precise mental game, and there are a lot of actions that you need to set up in your head.”
Calvin’s mom, Michiko Mitsui, said her son really enjoys the physical and mental aspects of fencing, and noted the sport has allowed him to travel and meet new people during competitions.
Michiko said her Calvin has been successful thus far in his fencing.
“Nobody knows what is going to happen in the future,” Michiko said. “I just hope he makes the most out of what he has and tries his best.”
• Shelby Slade is a sophomore at ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. She is an intern with the Tribune this semester. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.