London 2012: Lawrence, Scanlan take team bronze
“It’s pretty much the same,” Maya Lawrence ’02 said. “I mean, I have a lot of new swag and a medal, but it’s pretty much back to the same as it was.”
It may be, but Lawrence’s two weeks in London this summer were still unforgettable, and not just because she and junior Susie Scanlan, along with two other American fencers, took bronze in the women’s team epee.
Largely thanks to Lawrence, who defeated Russia’s Lyubov Shutova four touches to two in the eighth bout (of nine) to break a tie, the Americans eked out a 31-30 victory. Lawrence’s teammate, Courtney Hurley, lost some ground in the final bout, but the narrow cushion provided by Lawrence allowed Hurley to take the match to overtime, where the latter gave the USA the medal.
“It was really special,” Lawrence said. “I was really happy to be able to share that moment with the other girls on the team.”
Scanlan, her teammate, did not compete in the bronze medal match but was instrumental in getting her team there. She won two bouts against Italy in the quarterfinals, helping USA to a 45-35 victory and ensuring the team would at least be able to fight for bronze, which they did after losing to South Korea.
Scanlan, who left Princeton for a year last spring in order to fully dedicate herself to her dream of making the Olympic team, also competed in the women’s individual epee a few days before the team competition, falling to Olena Kryvytska of the Ukraine by two touches in her first Olympic event. Lawrence defeated Italy’s Mara Navarria before losing to another Italian in the round of 16.
Lawrence and Scanlan’s team came away with medals, but London was not as kind to Soren Thompson ’05. Though Thompson is an epeeist like the other two Princetonian Olympic fencers, there was no men’s team epee event this year, meaning that he had just one chance to go for the gold. “It’s sort of an unforgiving format,” he said.
Thompson fenced for the team when the event was held in Athens in 2004, helping the United States finish sixth. In individual competition that year, he upset the second-ranked epeeist in the world, Italy’s Alfredo Rota, before placing seventh, the second-highest an American had ever finished in the event. He had high hopes for Beijing until a severe hamstring tear forced him to withdraw from the qualifier and threatened his career. Thanks mostly to sheer willpower, Thompson worked his way back to the top and was ranked as high as seventh in the world earlier this year.
Unfortunately for Thompson, more injuries were in store. He was forced to fence with a patella tendon tear suffered not long before his first match, in which he was defeated handily by Joerg Fiedler of Germany.
“It’s kind of a letdown,” he said. “But my season as a whole was great.”
Aside from the personal accomplishments that led to his world ranking, Thompson was a big part of the American epee team that won the World Championship in Kiev for the first time ever in April. Though he was clearly disappointed with his result, Thompson said he enjoyed the Olympics and praised the host city.
“The London organizing committee just did a tremendous job,” he said. “The city itself was a very nice setting with a lot of historic venues ... The competitions were run in a very professional way, and the athletes had everything they needed.”
Lawrence compared life in the Olympic Village to her days at Princeton.
“It’s a lot like college,” she said. “Everyone eats in the same place; you’re living in a suite. It’s very small, everything was very close, and you have a lot of things available to you. It really reminded me of being back in school.”
Of course, it wasn’t exactly like being in college. On the world’s biggest stage, athletes are the focus of NBC and the worldwide media, not just The Daily Princetonian.
“The Olympics is just a really big extravaganza, and you’re kind of in the spotlight, especially for a small sport,” said Lawrence.
Still, she and Thompson both described the mood of the village as “focused” and said they mostly interacted with either other fencers or other Americans. Preparing for one’s events was always top priority. “It doesn’t have the kind of party atmosphere that people expect until pretty late in the game,” Thompson said.
The fencing events ended a week before the Games did, giving athletes a chance to explore London, watch other events and spend time with friends and family who came to watch. Lawrence, who has been living and competing in Paris for seven years, said she was thrilled to be able to catch up with loved ones from back home who could not often make the trip across the Atlantic.
No one can be sure of what the future holds for these three Princetonians. London may have been the end (on a high note) of Lawrence’s Olympic career, but for now she’s still fencing.
“I’ll fence through this season until the world championships in 2013,” she said. “For now I’m still in Paris, and I’m training with my coach on Monday.”
Thompson is, as he has been all too often, less in control of his future in the sport. His latest injury is similar to a recent one suffered by Rafael Nadal and, like the tennis champion, all he can do for now is wait.
“[Nadal] shut himself down for two months, which is basically what I’m doing right now,” Thompson said.
He will be focusing on his work, but hopes to still work on some fencing. He still has the desire to compete but has not yet decided whether he will continue to do so.
Scanlan, however, will be returning to Princeton in the spring and rejoining the Tiger fencing squad. A two-time first team All-Ivy fencer and now an Olympic medalist, she has two more years of collegiate competition ahead of her and, though it’s too early to know anything for sure, a bright future that very well could include a trip to Rio de Janeiro in 2016.
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