By Jerry Del Priore
15-year-old Skyler Liverant used focused and determination not seen by many adolescent boys to come from behind twice en route to capturing the bronze medal at the Cadet World Cup in Budapest, Hungary, this past weekend.
In the first direct elimination bout for top 64, Liverant was down the entire time against a Russian fencer, until the end. With a score of 11:14, Liverant managed to tie the bout, and then win it, 15:14. In his second direct elimination bout, for the top 32, Liverant also won by one touch.
Liverant’s inspiring comeback efforts shown to be a proven ground for his improved mettle and maturity. He participated in last year’s World Championships but didn’t do nearly as well.
“I had a few times last season where I let the pressure get to me,” Liverant, who competes with the épée sword, said. ‘Throughout, I just stayed focused and calm in those situations and won a few one-touch bouts. ”
Liverant — who lives in Kensington, Brooklyn, and attends Brooklyn Prospect Charter School — finished third out of 324 competitors and remained as the No. 1 nationally-ranked fencer and moved to fifth in the world in the cadet class from 22nd.
It all happened because Liverant said he didn’t surrender to his inner demons and just stayed optimistic and concentrated on the prize.
“Throughout the bout, I was losing by three or four touches,” he explained. “So, many times when people get in those situations, they kind start to think they might lose and they might not win. They start panicking.”
However, “throughout the bout, I just stayed relaxed and felt like I had a plan and knew what I wanted to do, and knew that I can do it and that it would help me win,” he continued. “It got to end where I was down 14-12, which is where I needed three single touches in a row and if he gets any, then I lose. That’s a lot of pressure, but I felt calm and I felt confident in what I needed to do. And I was able to execute.”
It’s this type of ability to amp up and turn down Liverant’s laserlike focus throughout a day of competition that has the adults in his life awestruck.
“When Skylar is hyper-focused, when he’s really in the zone, it’s absolutely phenomenal,” his mother, Lana Liverant, said. “It’s hard to explain. It’s just a beautiful sight to watch.
“He’s developed it (focus),” she added. “He’s always had this capacity to hyper-focus, sometimes to his determent. But I think he has more control over it. Now, he can kind of pull it out at will. He can control it, rather it controlling him. He definitely matured into it.”
Liverant’s coach, Misha Mokretsov, the owner of New York Fencing Academy (NYFA) in Coney Island, Brooklyn, feels the same way about his unshakeable mental acumen.
“As for his abilities, I think his best skill is his extraordinary ability to focus during competition,” Mokretsovs said. “He can perform probably better during competitions than in practice often. And that’s a unique quality. What makes a top athlete? It’s the ability to perform under pressure, and he has the ability to do that.”
The next day, Liverant and his US teammates earned the silver medal in the team event.
Liverant is aiming to qualify for the World Championships, which will be held in Salt Lake City, Utah in April of 2020.