Junior ready to fence in upcoming Junior Olympics


Caroline Ramirez

Junior Clara Brotzen-Smith will compete in her fourth Junior Olympics in Memphis from Feb. 16-19.

Fareen Dhuka and Leila Pulaski

When she was in third grade on a family vacation, Clara Brotzen-Smith never thought she would become a Junior Olympic fencer.

Brotzen-Smith and her cousins thought fencing could be a random summer activity for the family to enjoy, so they attended Stanford’s fencing camp for beginners. She liked the camp so much that she joined a fencing camp in Houston when her family returned from California.

Brotzen-Smith also played youth soccer because it was something that everyone does when they are little, but before long fencing became her primary sport: “It wasn’t a sport my parents had to drag me to.”

In 2015, Brotzen-Smith competed in her first Junior Olympics in Richmond, Virginia. While she only fenced in one event, what was more memorable was that her flight home was grounded by a blizzard.

Now a junior, Brotzen-Smith has fenced with Houston fencing academy Salle Mauro since 2010, a group she says parallels a team sport in its spirit.

Brotzen-Smith has qualified for the Junior Olympics since the eighth grade by meeting the point requirements that she accumulated by winning matches throughout the season.

She hopes to earn enough points to qualify for Summer Nationals, but their entry requirements are stricter than the Junior Olympics.

“I prefer Summer Nationals because I have more time to prepare,” Brotzen-Smith said. “School ends a month before Nationals, so I can take that time to practice without having it conflict with homework.”

Unlike other club sports which have rigid schedules and require athletes to commit to many hours of participation each week, Brotzen-Smith’s many school obligations limit her to practicing once or twice a week. Brotzen-Smith says the free-flowing structure of Salle Mauro allows her a degree of flexibility.

“It really hasn’t become overwhelming because of the way that my club is structured,” Brotzen-Smith said. “I can kind of play around with it in order to fit my schedule.”

After eight years and many tournaments, Brotzen-Smith will attend the Junior Olympics for the fourth time in Memphis, Tennessee, Feb. 16-19.

Lawrence Appel, a sophomore who also fences says that qualifying for Junior Olympics is quite impressive and is an ideal opportunity for becoming an Olympian or professional fencer.

“If you plan to follow fencing in life, Junior Olympics [is] a really critical point in jump-starting your career,” Appel said. “I love fencing, but I know it isn’t going to become my career.”

While she will continue competing in large tournaments throughout high school, Brotzen-Smith has no plans to pursue fencing beyond that: “It’s something that I’m definitely going to continue through high school, but I don’t think I’ll be fencing in college.”