At the foundation of any relationship is common interests, and for many couples that is a sport, such as fencing. This Valentine’s Day, we celebrate the relationships of eight couples, all of which met as fencers or found love with fencing being a large part of their lives.
Brendan Bâby and Sada Jacobson Bâby
How long they’ve been together: 10 years
How they met: In New York at a party at Brendan’s apartment
Understanding one of the most important part of each other’s lives, Brendan and Sada immediately connected through fencing. An epee fencer who competed at Penn State, Brendan was able to understand and completely support Sada as she trained and competed at the 2008 Olympic Games.
“[His support] was really important,” Sada said. “Although I didn’t get to see him or the rest of my family as much as I would’ve liked before the Games, it meant a lot to know that they had come all the way out there to be there to support me. I definitely heard all of them from the stands.”
2008 turned out to be a milestone year for Sada, winning individual silver and team bronze in Beijing and getting engaged.
“He proposed to me at a World Cup. This was one of the last tournaments before the Games in Beijing … he had told me that he was going to be refereeing at some NCAA tournament and instead as soon as we got to Spain, he showed up and knocked on my hotel room door, and the first question out of my mouth was, ‘You’re going to propose aren’t you?’” Sada said laughing. “He goes, ‘No, no, no. What are you talking about? I thought it would just be a fun surprise for me to come visit you for the weekend.’ This is before I competed. He wanted to wait until after the tournament was over and after we finished competing, we went out for dinner and went and sat on the Plaza Mayor and that’s where he popped the question.”
They married in 2009 and currently have two young sons.
Jere Bothelio and Lydia Fabry
How long they’ve been together: Five years
How they met: At the 2011 Veteran World Championships in Croatia
With four individual Veteran World Championship medals between them, Jere and Lydia were once referred to as “the alpha couple in veteran fencing” and it seems only fitting that they met on a day when they both earned hardware at Vet Worlds.
“He’s an epee fencer and I’m saber, so typically we don’t talk to each other, right? But what brought us together was that we happened to medal on the same day, so all the people who medaled that day had to sort of wait to have pictures taken,” Lydia said. “He happened to be there at the same time I was and after we finished taking all the thousand pictures that everybody wanted, the music came on and he grabbed me and started dancing with me … from that point on it was just laughing and the fun celebration of medaling that day. He took second and I took third that day in our respective events.”
Receiving tons of support from the fencing community as a couple, both Jere and Lydia are still competing. They know how to support each other and have also helped each other improve as both are self-taught fencers and don’t have coaches at tournaments.
“That’s also something we’ve been able to understand and has worked nicely for us in sort of helping each other out,” Lydia said. “We know how to communicate that way, which is different than the way coaches communicate with fencers. I can be on his strip and be supportive in a way that works for him and vice versa. We’re not each other’s coaches but at the same time it helps us feel coached.”
Fernando and Meredith Delgado
How long they’ve been together: 43 years at the end of May
How they met: At a fraternity party in college
Married for nearly 40 years, Fernando and Meredith Delgado are highly involved in the fencing community. Fernando began fencing at 14, fencing on the team at the University of Illinois before transitioning into coaching. While Meredith never fenced, she serves on the bout committee at North American Cups and National Championships. Both are officers for the Illinois Division.
“For me, [the fencing community is] like another family. We used to host big events like the NACs and a lot of times we had people – officials, bout committee people and stuff like that – stay in our home. It’s just added to our friendships throughout the years,” Meredith said. “This last year I was sick and the support that we got from all of the people in the organization, it helped me get through it and it think it helped Fernando as well to know we had people beside us, that aren’t are blood, but that care for us as much as they do their own families. It’s such a great sense of community.”
According to Fernando, the couple spent over 60 days at competitions last year. However, outside of fencing, they love to travel, spend time with their four children and five grandchildren (including the newest member of the family who was born this month) and enjoy watching tennis.
“Meredith especially loves tennis,” Fernando said. “I like tennis too because she got me into it and so this fall we plan on going to the U.S. Open. Our dream is go to the Australian Open and the French Open in the next couple years.”
Earl and Jennifer Hergert
How long they’ve been together: 29 years
How they met: Teammates on the Rutgers Fencing Team
Fencing has been a part of the Hergerts’ relationship since the beginning. Earl fences epee while Jennifer fenced foil and they remember their time on their collegiate fencing team as one of the top memories in their relationship.
“We were friends first because we were teammates,” Jennifer said. “When we were done with practice, we would all go to dinner together at the cafeteria and hang out. One day we just started holding hands and that was it.”
Now married almost 26 years, they have a 13-year-old son who also fences foil. As a result, fencing is a family affair as Earl continues to fence and Jennifer handles all the logistics in the sport. And when Ben has practice Friday nights, the couple uses the opportunity once a month for date night.
As both love to be active and hike, fencing also serves as an opportunity for the Hergerts to try new hikes as they travel around the country for tournaments.
“We go out and do long hikes together,” Earl said. “We’re looking forward to Salt Lake because we were there for the last two years in Utah doing a lot of 10, 12 mile hikes and backpack camping.”
Seth and Paige Kelsey
How long they’ve been together: 13 years
How they met: Air Force Academy Tournaments. Seth fenced at the Air Force Academy, Paige at Northern Colorado Fencers.
Seth and Paige Kelsey share an understanding not only of fencing, but of epee. They started dating not long before Seth competed in his first Olympic Games in 2004, and Paige attended the next two Games to support Seth.
“Going to the Olympics was one of the highlights of my life and she got to be there and share that with me,” Seth said. “Those are super unique experiences and to know someone who’s doing it and to see the process, I think it gives you a much better understanding of what it took to get there and how big of an achievement it is.”
Seth and Paige married three years ago in Maui with many fencers in attendance, including Olympian Cody Mattern and World Team member Jimmy Moody, who served as groomsmen. The Kelseys have become real estate investors, renovating houses and renting them out. They also love to be outside and are always willing to try new activities together.
“We only give each other experience gifts and our families only give us experience gifts, so that’s pretty cool,” Paige said. “We’ve done everything from diving in the aquarium in Denver to dog sledding, glass blowing – any kind of class you can ever imagine, I’m pretty sure we’ve taken it.”
Cody Mattern and Tasha Hall
How long they’ve been together: Six years
How they met: At the Duel of the Desert Tournament in Las Vegas
Although epee fencers Cody Mattern and Tasha Hall met in the early 2000s through a mutual friend while hanging out after a fencing tournament, the couple started dating after Summer Nationals in 2011 after Mattern gave Hall her gold medal for the senior women’s epee team event. Nearly four years later, Mattern once again gave Hall some hardware – this time an engagement ring.
“It was the most extravagant thing ever. He took me on a week-long road trip around the Southwest U.S. I had never been to places like the Grand Canyon or Antelope Canyon or Arches or Yellowstone, so he did this week-long tour around the west U.S.,” Tasha said. “I had no clue where we were going. He wouldn’t tell me until the night before the destination for the next day. We would be at Yellowstone and he would give me a little gift box and inside there would be like camping equipment, like forks and spoons and say, ‘Hey we’re going to Arches National Park tomorrow,’ or wherever the next destination was. So every day I got a little gift box with where we were going next. And finally the final stop was at Crater Lake back in Oregon, and it’s really beautiful up there, and the last gift box that he gave me had the ring inside of it.”
They will get married in September in Bordeaux, France at the home of 2012 Olympic Coach Sebastien Dos Santos’ house and Seth Kelsey will officiate the wedding, which is guaranteed to have many fencers on the guest list. In the meantime, Mattern coaches at Northwest Fencing Center in Oregon while Hall has recently picked up fencing again.
“He loves fencing and coaching. He’s made it his life and mission. I competed for a while and then am just starting to get back into it and Cody’s actually my coach now … sometimes it’s really hard, but for the most part he’s a really good coach, so we try not to let personal matters get into it. But it’s definitely hard having your fiancé as your coach.” Hall said jokingly.
Tony and Cynthia Padavano
How long they’ve been together: Six years
How they met: At the Phoenix Falcons Fencing Club
Soon after graduating from college, Cynthia met Tony at their local club in 2010. Cynthia had been fencing since she was 16 while Tony had just started. The following year, the two began dating.
“We met just as friends, casually, always fencing. Our fencing friends at the club always hung out, so we would hang out at night and just built a friendship over the year,” Cynthia said. “So after one year, when I actually became single was when Tony asked me out.”
When they got married, fencing was incorporated into the celebration and many of the guests were from the club. Two years later, the Padavanos are expecting their first child in May. Their daughter will be around fencing plenty as both still love to fence. Both epee fencers, they even fence each other to improve, although those bouts are still very competitive.
“We try to fence for practice a lot. Nowadays, I do get frustrated fencing him because he’s a lot stronger than I am, but it’s still all in good fun,” Cynthia said. “We don’t really get each other in competition that much luckily, but when we do it does become a combat, that’s for sure.”
Jeff and Jennie Salmon
How long they’ve been together: 21 years
How they met: Volunteering at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, Ga.
Jeff and Jennie attended rival colleges, Jeff fencing saber at Penn State while Jennie was a foilist at Temple University. Though they crossed paths in college at a party, they didn’t actually meet until 1996. Now married nearly 15 years with two children, the Salmons are coaches and founded Mission Fencing Center.
“The reason it’s called Mission Fencing is that we started it in this crazy old church that we live in and that means there were missionaries,” Jennie said. “That’s where the name came from … So when we were thinking of a name, we thought ‘oh that’s a great name’ because the original Mission Fencing was in the church.”
The Salmons have nearly 40 years of coaching experience combined. With most of their time put into their business, many of their favorite memories as a couple revolve around the club.
“We only had seven small strips and so my favorite memories are when we first started. We had no idea that we would end up in a 30,000 square foot facility running huge tournaments,” Jennie said. “We really didn’t’ even know we’d be professional fencing coaches but back then, it was just in this old church, kids falling through the floorboards. We’d repair the floors, so I think that looking back on that, those are our first kids and some of my favorite memories from back then.”
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