Smith wins gold and silver in Nutmeg Games fencing

Competing in three fencing events in two days at the Nutmeg State Games last month, Liam Smith was definitely feeling the effects by the second day as he competed in the Cadet Men’s foil (Under 17).

Coming off a full day of competition the day before, and working at a fencing camp for kids that morning, Smith had to deal with his own exhaustion as well as his opponents.

But despite cramping in his legs in the finals, he managed to beat Samuel Bagdan in a nail-biter, 11-10, in overtime to win the gold medal.

“I was still in pain after the bout and my whole body was cramping up, which prevented me from accepting the gold medal on the stands with the other fencers — my only regret,” said Smith.

A rising junior at Wilton High School, Smith also competed in the Senior Men’s Open event, placing 17th, and the Junior Men’s foil (Under 20) event, finishing in second place. The Games were held in late July in Danbury.

Smith only began fencing two and a half years ago, and has been competing for less than two years.

“I think the Nutmeg Games is the highest point in my fencing career thus far. I have never placed this high in such a large event of good fencers ever before in my career. I also think it was my best fencing ever. I hope this is the beginning of a good streak in my development as a fencer,” he said.

Smith trains at Candlewood Fencing Center in Danbury and is coached by Jeremy Goun. He trains 20 hours a week — three to four hours a day, four or five days a week — all year.

He got into the sport through a continuing education class.

“A couple of my friends were going so I thought it would be fun,” he said. “I love fencing because it’s a lot of fun, it’s very physical and I’ve made many lasting relationships through fencing. It’s also really cool to watch.”

At the recent Nutmeg Games, Smith felt good about his performance in the Junior Men’s foil (Under 20) event.

“I felt like I was fencing my best and I won each bout without too much trouble. Once I was in the final I really fenced with everything I had. Unfortunately, I made a couple mistakes early on in the bout and I couldn’t make it up at the end and I lost 15-13 to Daniel Levitan,” he said. “I was still quite pleased with the result as Levitan is a B-rated fencer while I’m still just an E.”

In the Cadet Men’s foil (Under 17), Smith rallied for a 15-14 win in the semifinals, after going down 13-7. In the finals, Smith had a 10-6 lead in the last period but Bagdan scored four points to tie things at 10-10.

“I played it safe during overtime, waiting for my opponent to make a mistake, which allowed me to score the final touch,” he said.

In his short time fencing, Smith said he’s learned quite a few lessons.

“I think the most important skill for a good fencer is the ability to adapt to new and diverse situations. It’s a skill that I’m learning to apply but I am a long way from mastering. If you can do this, you don’t have to be the strongest or fastest fencer. You just have to be smart about your fencing,” he said. “Fencing has taught me patience and also how to be decisive under pressure.”

Smith hopes to fence in college, but realizes he needs to continue to learn and grown to make it to that level.

“Not having a Wilton High fencing program makes it harder, but I am working to raise awareness of the sport through our fledgling high school fencing club,” he said.