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09/25/2022 11:16 AM

Toomre Fencing to Success on the National Stage

Kai Toomre, an 11-year-old Guilford resident, claimed the bronze medal in his foil division at the USA National Fencing Championship this summer. Photo courtesy of Derek Toomre

Any accomplishment is worth the world to a young athlete. Kai Toomre, a middle school sensation in the sport of fencing, had a magical moment this summer while making his mark as one of the nation’s best.

Kai, who is in 6th grade at Baldwin Middle School, has been taken fencing seriously for several years. Kai recently saw his hard work pay off when he earned a bronze medal in the Y-10 Boys’ Foil Division at the 2022 USA Fencing National Championships held in Minneapolis, Minnesota in July. Winning the medal was the peak of Kai’s career thus far, and it’s an achievement means a lot to him.

Kai competes in the Y-10 division as a foil fencer. He participated in local, divisional, and regional tournaments within his division in order to qualify and earn a spot to fence on the national stage. At the event, Kai placed third among a pool of 120 competitors in his division. It was a surreal moment for Kai to claim the bronze medal at Nationals after years of practicing his strategies to near perfection.

“It was great. I didn’t think I’d do so well, because I feel like I had a little bit of doubt in me,” says Kai, 11. “I kept on trying and working hard.”

Every fencer needs to need hours upon hours of time refining their skills through practice. For Kai, the most important skills that he’s learned include situational awareness, speed, and body placement, along with overall strategy and tactics. Kai had all these attributes on full display when he claimed his bronze medal at Nationals.

“I was focusing on speed. In fencing, you have to move around, think about strategy, and you have to get people in those situations,” Kai says. “It’s easy to picture something, but it’s harder to do it. I’ve tried to set things up and use speed to my advantage.”

Prior to medaling at Nationals, Kai earned first place at the USA Regional and USA Super-Youth Circuit events to go with 20 other medal finishes at various competitions at the local and divisional levels. The feeling of consistently performing well and seeing his hard work rewarded with top finishes is extremely satisfying for Kai.

“I like the feeling of accomplishment,” says Kai. “For all sports, when you work hard, that feeling of accomplishment at the end, it’s like, ‘Look what I did.’”

Kai trains with Slava Grigoriev at the Tim Morehouse Club in New York City for two to four hours either five or six days a week. The commute is more than worth it for Kai based on how those sessions benefit his performance as a fencer. Kai started training with Grigoriev after having spent a few years at the Fencer School of Connecticut.

Kai’s first coach at the Fencer School of Connecticut was Matt Catino, the former coach of the Guilford High School fencing program. Kai grew up admiring Guilford’s fencers as he watched them compete. Catino introduced Kai to fencing and loves working with someone who has such a strong passion for the sport.

“Kai is fearless, and so he’s not worried about if he’s winning or losing, but just fighting in the moment. That kind of combination of fearlessness and his fun personality is really a difficult challenge for his opponents,” Catino says. “He has a great combination of technique and athleticism. He’s very willing to try something he’s not comfortable with or try something new.”

Kai has seen exponential growth while working with experienced and prestigious coaches who want nothing but the best for him. Kai’s coaches have also taught him about the importance of respect. As a result, Kai recognizes the importance of showing respect as a competitor.

“Your coaches, you have to treat them with respect. They’ll get closer to you and try to push you more,” says Kai. “You have to treat people nicely and have to listen to them.”

Kai’s biggest inspirations are his coaches, opponents, and his parents. Kai’s father Derek and mother Kayoko have devoted countless hours to help him succeed in the sport by driving him to and from his tournaments and practices. Kai’s parents love watching him excel and supporting him every step along the way.

Kai’s motivation to keep working hard stems from his desire to continue placing high in his fencing competitions. Kai plans to continue pursuing his passion and doing everything in his power to achieve his dreams.

“I have to keep on pushing. Even though I got third in Nationals, I have to keep on going, because you can’t stop,” Kai says. “If I just stop right now, everyone’s going to go ahead of me, and I won’t have that feeling again.”

Kai has short-term goals and long-term dreams for his fencing career. Kai wants to be a decorated fencer with a career full of accomplishments that he can feel proud about. For Kai, that career is off to a tremendous start.

“My dream is to get to the Olympic level,” Kai says. “My goal for right now is hopefully in the next summer, Nationals. I could get another medal.”