Nish Nguyen: An El Modena Fencing Phenom

Sophomore Nish Nguyen, a dedicated fencer, details his efforts to participate in a unique sport


Most high school students only hear the words, “foil,” “épée,” and “saber” in a movie or theater play, but do not personally relate to these French terms. However, to sophomore Nish Nguyen, these are his tools of expertise in a physically demanding and time-consuming sport.

   Nguyen is a nationally ranked, dedicated fencer who strives toward success as a model to his family, classmates, and younger athletes just learning how to hold the foil.

   Nguyen’s constant effort in fencing has earned him every right to reap the benefits of victory, but fencing was not always one of his central focuses. “I originally started out with Tae Kwon Do,” says Nguyen. “I felt that it wasn’t that interesting because it seems like everyone does it. I wanted something where there’s no definite goal, where you can just keep on winning.”

   Nguyen’s rationale about winning and improvement has definitely carried on through the years, as he has participated in various tournaments. That concept of having the opportunity to obtain limitless achievements has inspired Nguyen to push himself even further in practice and in competitions.

   Throughout his years of fencing experience, Nguyen has made memories in competitions and practice with friends and other fencers. He recalls a specific instance in his first competition, “I was very nervous. I actually fenced one of my friends at the time, but I didn’t really know what was going on. I just followed everything my coach said and I ended up getting second place in my very first tournament. That’s when my parents wanted me to do more with my talents.”

   As Nguyen kept performing well, his parents encouraged him to practice more. According to Nguyen, he enjoys practicing because he feels that the hard work and success is not necessarily for his parents, but for him. He appreciates recognition, but also recognizes that self-satisfaction does not come without the time and work that occurs behind the scenes.

   Winning and improvement are not the only factors that motivate Nguyen to stay in the fight. His older brother, Jett, is the captain of the UCI Fencing Team. 

   Nguyen comments on his older brother, “He would always practice with me but I would always try to practice way more than him because I knew that he was way stronger and way faster than me. So, I have to work on my technique often if I want to compete with him.”

   The countless hours of working on his technique and attempting to surpass his brothers’ skill has earned Nguyen his national ranking. He says, “It means a lot to me. It paid off because the fencing camps were so long and it’s difficult to balance that with school, so I just have to have good time management.”

   Nguyen notes that part of the sport’s rigor and demanding hours is the ability to effectively balance school work and practice.

   His daily schedule consists of doing homework immediately when he gets home or during school hours because he has a lesson with his coach soon after school ends. “We work on technique and watch videos of my performances so I can critique myself to improve in the future.”

   Every ounce of effort and sweat that contributes to Nguyen’s talent and skill in the art of fencing has given him both physical and academic advantages. Aside from the obvious health benefits that come with being active, Nguyen demonstrates his leadership skills when he helps younger kids learn how to fence. He keeps them interested in fencing by teaching them fun new moves that they can practice on each other.

   In the future, Nguyen plans on attending UCI and “overthrowing” his brother from his current position as Captain of the fencing team. In order to accomplish that, Nguyen knows he will need to compete in more competitions, continue to practice for long hours, and strive to manage his time effectively so he can push himself to perform at the highest level.

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