Jorge Rojas of the Stevens men’s fencing team returned from the World Junior Fencing Championships in Moscow this week. The freshman finished 88th and advanced out of pool play in the tournament of 128 fencers from 57 countries.
The trip started for Rojas with a solo plane ride to Russia, a trip that predictably involved some culture shock once off the jetway. “The first thing you notice of course is that you don’t understand what the people around you are saying. But I really did not have much of a chance to experience life outside of the competition. I went to Russia to fence.
“I told myself ‘this is the world stage – I made it’. I resolved to do the best I can do. I tried not to be nervous, not have anxiety because I really did not have any pressure on me. No one was expecting me to win because it was my first time at an international event.”
There were a total of five Puerto Ricans in the delegation, and by the time Rojas landed most of them were in the country already. After meeting them at the hotel, the fencers set out for the venue. The site of competition was the same arena where the 1980 Olympic Fencing events were held.
“It was beautiful inside,” said Rojas. “There were many, many strips throughout and there was also an elevated, podium section for the final rounds. (It can be seen on the attached video) There were spotlights and they used the latest in fencing technology; a wireless sensor and video replay system that allows officials to detect even the smallest differences in time between touches.”
Rojas and the rest of the fencers went early to adjust for the time and he was able to meet and practice with all the other competitors in the five days leading up to the competition. “It was during those days where I gained perhaps the best experience of the trip,” said Rojas. “Being able to interact with all those different kinds of people and different styles of fencing was a great, very unique experience.
“On competition day, I was happy. It really hit me, and I was so happy to be there. Once I started warming up, all the nervousness disappeared.”
Rojas advanced out of pool play and finished 88th out of the 128 fencers. He still has one more year of eligibility in the junior championship.
“I was pleased with my results. I think I could have done better, but I was happy with it because it was my first time. You see so many different styles there and now that I have seen them I feel much more confident for future events.”
When asked about his upcoming international plans, Rojas replied “I am definitely looking forward to representing my country in the future – I’ll be going to the Pan-American games in July and will hopefully be back at the World Junior Championships next year.
“My goal is to make it to the Top-32 at juniors next year. I was just two bouts away from that round so I feel like I’m right on the cusp of it. My original goal was to make this event, and now that I have I’m focusing on placing in the upper reaches of the tournament.
“I always like to be moving forward.”