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OUA All-Star hopes to continue his fencing career after graduation

Photo credit: Marta Keirkus

Meet Nicholas Wagman, captain of the men’s fencing foil team. This first-year master’s of physiotherapy student is a veteran of the sport, having fenced for 17 years. He has accumulated numerous accolades and awards, including an Ontario University Athletics all-star selection this season, and is currently the national university champion for men’s foil.

The Fulcrum: When did you start fencing, and how did you first get introduced to the sport?

Nicholas Wagman: I started fencing at the age of 10. My mother’s a teacher and towards the last two weeks of summer vacation she would have to return to the classroom to set up for the upcoming school year. I would register for a day camp, and this particular year my first choice, ball hockey, was full, so I had to register for fencing and almost immediately fell in love with the sport. How have you personally improved throughout your years of competing? From a physical point of view, I think I’ve developed into having strong, fast legs, which I definitely like to use to my advantage. I’ve also developed a really good feel for reading other competitors’ timing, and I definitely like to use that to my advantage to allow situations to open up.

What’s your favourite meal for a day of competition?

I package a huge container of vegetables—carrots, peppers, and cucumbers—for the day of competition. I can’t eat anything besides that; it makes my stomach feel weird. I know it’s not a lot of calories, but at least I eat something. Pre-tournament I have even a harder time eating, but I try to eat a muffin, or a bagel.

Do you have a pre-competition ritual?

Yeah, I have a ritual. I have a training log where I break down every minute from the time I wake up to the time I get on piste for my first bout. Usually men’s foil we start at 8 a.m. So from 6:30 a.m. until eight I go through a minute-to-minute breakdown of what I need to do to get prepared. It takes a lot of the stress out of the competition because I know I’m prepared and I’ve done everything I need to do without wasting energy on thinking if I’ve missed anything, or what’s next. I also like to listen to Blink-182, or some crazy hardcore techno stuff, which I normally wouldn’t listen to.

What do you like doing in your spare time?

I like to read a lot of autobiographies and fiction. My favourite books are The Firm by John Grisham and Sacred Hoops by Phil Jackson. I love the way Phil Jackson approaches sport through a mental perspective. I would say fencing is 70 per cent mental, 30 per cent physical, and I try to use the mental aspect of the game to establish an advantage against my opponent, reading their moves and tendencies within the bout.

What’s next for you?

For me it’s definitely finishing up this physiotherapy degree while maintaining as much fencing as possible with the workload. Once that’s complete, I plan on picking up a heavier training schedule and seeing what kind of doors I can open heading down that road. Also with my sporting background, I would love to pursue physiotherapy working with amateur sport at the national level and give back to the sporting community, which is responsible for a lot of the person I am today.