FROM BEGINNER TO OLYMPIAN

DYLAN'S STORY

DYLAN FRENCH

2014 Canadian Youth Olympic Team Flag Bearer

National North and Pan American Individual Champion

World Championships Bronze Medalist

When Dylan was in Kindergarten a group of fencers came to do a demonstration for the kids at his school. He came home and said he wanted to try it out. Unfortunately, at that time you had to be 8 years old to start fencing, so he had to wait a few years. He was always interested in knights and sword fighting. When he turned 8, we signed him up for classes at Dynamo. Starting out in foil, he only went once a week for a few years, having fun pretending to be a knight.

 

It all changed when he competed in his first North American Cup (NAC) in Portland just before his 11th birthday. "He asked me to put Canadian flags all over his fencing uniform, so that everyone could tell that he was from Canada." His mom Bridget recalls. "He finished nearly last, but he was hooked. He started training more and more and eventually gave up all his other activities in order to train up to 30 hours a week. I kept suggesting that he find a balance by adding another sport or hobby so as not to burn out. He told me “ok, I’ll start fencing epee as well”. Technically I could not argue with that! So, from age 13 to 16 he competed in both weapons."

 

He qualified for his first Cadet World Championships in Moscow at age 14 in epee. The next year he was ranked #1 in Canada at the Cadet level in both epee and foil and finished 13th at the World Championships in epee. In 2014 when he was 16 he qualified for the Cadet and Junior National Teams in both weapons but decided to opt out of fencing foil at the World Championships in order to focus on epee. At that World Championships, he ended up winning a bronze medal in Cadet and finished 5th in Junior, eliminating the world #1 in the process. These results put him on the radar for scouts from the USA and he got offered a scholarship to go to The University of Notre Dame. 

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A MESSAGE FROM DYLAN

“There are no words to describe how fortunate I feel to have been a part of Dynamo Fencing since I was 8 years old. This club and the coaches made me passionate about fencing, and that passion shaped me into the person that I am today. 

Fencing has given me friends and experiences that I’ll never forget, it’s given me the work ethic to accomplish anything that I set my mind to, and it’s given me numerous opportunities that I wouldn’t have had if not for Fencing."

 

A MESSAGE FROM DYLAN'S MOM

"Fencing is a sport that challenges you both mentally and physically. It is a sport that can be enjoyed your whole life no matter how old you are. Your child will develop discipline, focus, and body awareness. They will learn to think critically and solve problems in a split second. They will learn confidence, perseverance, flexibility, lightning reflexes and stamina. 

Dylan lives and breathes fencing. Dynamo is his family and Victor is like a father to him. Igor is like the older brother he has always wanted. 

 

Victor, as one of the best coaches in the world, is a true master of fencing. When he is at an event with his fencers, he stays up late into the night studying the opposition and planning for the next day. Victor can remember every match that Dylan has fenced, down to the score and the action that decided the bout. Igor is passionate about fencing and brings out the best in his students by preparing them to compete and succeed on the International stage.

 

Dylan is immensely proud of his club and takes wearing his Dynamo jacket very seriously. Dynamo has shaped his life and given him a passion to succeed. 

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INTERVIEW WITH DYLAN'S MOM

Q: What were your expectations at the beginning? 

 

In the beginning, we just wanted to expose him to as many activities and experiences as possible with the hope that he would find something that he really enjoyed. He found his passion in fencing. We have never had any expectations from Dylan. I always tell him the same thing before he competes; “have fun”. Even if you lose, if you learnt something or even just made one good touch, then it was worth it. Once he moved to the senior level things got much tougher as he started competing against the very best athletes in the world, many of whom fence as a career. I always remind him that at every event, there is only one person who ends up totally satisfied at the end. The one that takes the Gold. We never put any pressure on him, but he does put a lot of pressure on himself to succeed.

 

Q: In what ways has fencing changed/empowered your child or If he didn't make it in fencing, what do you think he would still take away from it? 

 

Fencing has taught Dylan so many valuable life skills and given him so many rare life experiences. He was always required to complete his schoolwork before he could go fencing, so it has taught him to be efficient and use his time wisely. He has developed persistence, resilience, focus and a strong work ethic, among other things. Fencing has given him confidence and taught him leadership skills. He has developed a love for traveling and learning about other cultures and fencing has given him the opportunity to travel to more than 20 countries as well as multiple cities within Canada and USA. He always makes time to visit museums, art galleries or cultural sites when he travels.

Through his fencing he was able to tour the City of Samarkand (in Uzbekistan), one of the oldest cities in Central Asia. A city rich in history, that was conquered by both Alexander the Great and Genghis Khan. He had the honor of carrying the Canadian flag at the opening ceremonies of the 2014 Youth Olympics in Nanjing. He helped win his University two NCAA Team Championships in a row. None of these experiences would have been possible without fencing or Dynamo.

 

Q: When did you think your son could be a world class athlete? 

 

This question is difficult: Dylan is very humble, but also very driven. I have always felt that he could accomplish anything he set his mind to. I don’t think there was any specific moments when I realized that he could be “world class”. I think he just constantly set goals for himself, and then works really hard to achieve them. The soft-spoken young man becomes a fierce warrior on the piste.

 

Q: What was your job as a mom and what should parents expect?  

 

The most important job of a fencing Mom is to support. Support your child, support the coaches, and support the rest of the Dynamo family. Realize that the coach knows best and trust their judgement. If you know anything about Victor and Igor, you know they will always put the needs of your child first. If you can, be there to help out and volunteer. For example, I remember being a guardian and taking a bunch of teenagers on a week-long trip to a competition Ontario. I did the grocery shopping, cooking, driving, made sure they kept up with schoolwork and took care of anything else they needed. I then handed them over to another parent at the airport to continue their trip on to Sweden for another event. Most importantly do not put pressure on you child. It’s an individual sport, and I guarantee they are putting enough pressure on themselves. 

 

Q: What advice would you give parents who consider fencing for their kids?

 

Fencing is a sport that challenges you both mentally and physically. It is a sport that can be enjoyed your whole life no matter how old you are. Your child will develop discipline, focus, and body awareness. They will learn to think critically and solve problems in a split second. They will learn confidence, perseverance, flexibility, lightning reflexes and stamina. 

Most importantly, fencing will enrich your child’s life. Dylan has had the opportunity to travel around the world and experience things that not many people his age have experienced. Fencing allowed him to study at one of the most prestigious Universities in the US. Many of his closest friends are from the fencing community. You often hear about the sacrifices you will have to make as a parent of an athlete, but I would not call them sacrifices. As a parent all you can ask for is for your child to find something they’re passionate about. If you child loves what they are doing, then you will nurture that passion.

 

 

Q: What role did Dynamo play in Dylan's life?

 

Dylan lives and breathes fencing. He’s constantly doing footwork around the house. He’s always poking the air, the furniture and sometimes me. He watches videos of fencing competitions, constantly learning and analyzing.

 

Dynamo is his family and Victor is like a father to him. Igor is like the older brother he has always wanted. 

Victor, as one of the best coaches in the world, is a true master of fencing. When he is at an event with his fencers, he stays up late into the night studying the opposition and planning for the next day. Victor can remember every match that Dylan has fenced, down to the score and the action that decided the bout. Igor is passionate about fencing and brings out the best in his students by preparing them to compete and succeed on the International stage. Dylan is immensely proud of his club and takes wearing his Dynamo jacket very seriously. Dynamo has shaped his life and given him a passion to succeed. 

 
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