For the sixth consecutive year, student-athletes from the men's and women's fencing team traveled to Asia, where they participated in the Absolute International Collegiate Elite Competition in Wuxi, China.
The previous five events were called the Korean U.S. Elite Fencing Invitational (KUEFI) and were held in Korea.
The recent five-day trip brought together fencers from eight U.S. colleges, China and Korea. They competed for three days in all weapon categories in individual and team play, often mixing with other schools and countries.
Stanford was represented by sophomores Sajan Patel and Nick Campbell-Kruger in men's epee, sophomore Ty Hunter and senior John Stayner in men's sabre, and sophomores Valerie Garcia and Carly Weber-Levine in women's sabre.
It marked the first international competition for many American fencers.
"The essence of the event is the cross cultural experience and promotion of scholar-athletes," said Rita Whitney-Comes, who accompanied the group and is Executive Director of the Stanford Fencing Association. "It gives those students a sense of confidence and accomplishment. They are ambassadors for their school, their families and their countries."
Wuxi, a coastal city of Jiang, is located about 60 miles west of Shanghai on the shore of Taihu, one of the largest freshwater lakes in China. A high tech hub, it has a population of 1.4 million. Little English is spoken.
Excursions included guided sightseeing through beautiful gardens, a boat ride through city canals and on the lake, and a sampling of local cuisine.
"I didn't know what to expect," said Patel. "It was so much fun. They all had unique styles and were really good fencers. It was a great bonding experience."
Competition was high caliber and spirited. Although scores were kept, results were secondary.
"The whole junior national team for Korea was there and a lot of good American fencers as well," Hunter said. "It was nice to interact."
Weber-Levine enjoyed teaming up with fencers from Harvard and Brandeis.
"It was great to cheer for people from other schools and talk about how their fencing experiences were different from ours," Weber-Levine said. "It was a fun opportunity."
Language and internet connections proved challenging, as the Chinese and Korean fencers spoke Mandarin. But all adapted and enjoyed the food.
"For the most part, the fish was whole," said Patel. "But it wasn't too different and all good and tasty."
Added Hunter, "I have weird food restrictions. I tried some meats, some of which I'm not sure what they were. We ate lots of dumplings and noodles."
At the hotel buffets, food was labeled in Mandarin with interesting American translations.
"A bun with custard was called a yellow milk bun," said Weber-Levine.
Hunter enjoyed the architecture and sightseeing.
"It was pretty incredible," said Hunter. "It was so different from the U.S. Lots of mopeds and not really any traffic rules."
The idea for the competition was hatched in 2009 by Stanford alum Jimi Jung and the Stanford Fencing Association, spearheaded by Whitney-Comes, Melody Lowman and Cardinal head coach Lisa Posthumus. Jung made them happen.
Jung, who earned an engineering graduate school degree from Stanford (2004), is CEO and Founder of Lourus Enterprise Co. LTD.
He helped the Stanford fencing program retain varsity sports status with a generous financial gift in 2010.
Jung lives in Korea, owns and operates two fencing clubs that promote exercise and education, and is the International Co-President of the Stanford Fencing Association.
"Through this tournament, Jimi has become a friend of college fencing and will always be a part of the Stanford fencing family," Posthumus said.
Gary Lu, President of American Fencers International and New Jersey-based Absolute Fencing Gear, hosted this year's tournament.
"I had always known about them going to national fencing competitions in the U.S.," Weber-Levine said of Absolute Fencing. "He built this incredible facility in Wuxi and it is probably the nicest fencing center I have ever been to."