Brooklyn, NY — Brooklyn 17-year-old Skyler Liverant picked up a bronze medal in the Fencing World Championship in the Cadet (17-and-under) age group in Cairo, Egypt, last week.
This was Liverant’s second World Championship in the Cadet Division. Liverant’s coach, Misha Mokretsov of New York Fencing Academy (Coney Island, Brooklyn), said his past experience helped him prepare for the second most prominent international competition in the sport of fencing, next only to the Olympic Games.
“When Skyler competed two years ago in the World Championship in Poland, he was only 15 years old fencing against opponents two years older,” Mokretsov recalled, “and he was overwhelmed by the magnitude of the event. This time, Skyler came fully prepared and knew what to expect.”
Liverant agreed that the second time around helped him to keep his focus and determination.
“I felt really confident,” the Kensington, Brooklyn, and Prospect Charter School high school student confirmed. “I was practicing really well and was mentally prepared. Having been there before, I knew how I needed to approach the competition to win.”
You would think that the current COVID-19 protocols — being in a bubble from his arrival at the airport and throughout the competition — would cause some angst for Liverant. Though it did a little, he said that being hotel-bound for the event ultimately guided his thoughts toward the task at hand.
“On one hand it was hard to stay in the hotel all the time” Liverant said, “but I think it also helped us to focus on the competition.”
Battling slight nerves, Liverant lost the first pool bout by one touch. But Liverant and Mokretsov talked it over and he finished the pool round 14th out of 100 athletes.
In the direct elimination round, Liverant first faced Krystof Pohnan from the Czech Republic. Liverant was flawless, leading 14-0 and he finished the bout with a double touch to make it 15-1. In his bout for top 16 against Lukin Bogdan from Kazakhstan, Liverant started confidently and held his advantage throughout to lock in a 15-7 victory.
For Liverant, the most significant bout of the day was for the top eight when he had to beat fellow American, Henry Lawson.
“It’s always a lot of pressure to fence a teammate at an international competition, especially World Championships,” Liverant explained.
Lawson was ranked third after pools, and both fencers knew each other very well. It all came down to who could change the game enough to surprise the opponent. They fenced evenly to 7-7, then Liverant built a comfortable lead and won, 15-9.
The next bout determined whether Liverant would make the top four and earn a medal. His competitor was Markus Salm from Estonia, whom Liverant fenced and surmounted in the pool round. Coach Mokretsov’s main advice was to not underestimate his opponent just because he beat him in the pools.
Liverant was winning 13-8 and then lost three touches in a row. His lead narrowed to 13-11 and then his coach intervened, changing strategies to attack more aggressively so as not to permit too much freedom to his opponent. Liverant succeeded, and won, 15-12, earning himself a shiny, new piece of hardware.
To make the finals, however, Liverant had to fence in the semifinals against a very strong fencer, Artem Sarkisyan from Russia.
Liverant started to attack early in the match, which was not the right strategy. Sarkisyan was very comfortable defending and with his advantage, he did not need to attack. With a strong performance, Liverant ended the day with the bronze medal, adding to the USA’s success at this World Championship.
“Skyler fenced his heart out,” Mokretsov said. “He really deserves this medal for all his hard work over the past eight years, his dedication and love for the sport of fencing, and very importantly, his personal qualities: honesty, loyalty, and diligence. It’s a beautiful way to finish the cadet age level and I know it will only inspire him to achieve greater results in the future.”
— Jerry Del Priore
(Photos: New York Fencing Academy).