Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, fencer Jaclyn Khrol placed seventh in the Junior (under-20) World Championship in Cairo, Egypt, earlier this month, and rose to the 13-ranked position in just her first-ever junior World Championship.
The Fencing World Championship is the second-most prominent international competition in the sport of fencing, behind the Olympic Games, according to Khrol’s coach, Misha Mokretsov of New York Fencing Academy (NYFA) in Brooklyn, NY.
Khrol, who has been fencing since she was nine years old, enjoyed consistent success from the age of 10, with countless medals at North American Cups, Summer Nationals, and Junior Olympics, as well as World Cups.
But in 2019, Khrol, 18, narrowly missed making the National Team by one spot, dousing her young spirit for the time being.
“It was very hard to keep her inspired and motivated to start training again,” Mokretsov said. “Jackie was so successful from a young age, that in her mind, she (thought she) would make the National Team. But when it didn’t happen, it was very shocking for her.”
However, it wasn’t the last time Khrol tasted disappointment, as she came up one spot short again in a pandemic-crazed 2020.
“That was so disappointing,” said Khrol, who is senior at Midwwod High School in Brooklyn. “Plus, COVID started and I wasn’t able to train for eight months.”
That is an extremely long to not train for any athlete, let alone someone of Khrol’s fencing caliber. As soon as it was allowed, however, Khrol started training again and it became obvious that she had a lot of work to do to get back in shape to the level needed to succeed at major events.
But Khrol put in the necessary time and effort and good news followed suit.
“I was thrilled to learn that the World Championships were happening and I finally got selected for the team.”
Khrol and Mokretsov did not have long to prepare, but they used ingenuity and found a way to make it work to their advantage.
“Jackie was a little uncomfortable going to her dream event after such a long break,” Mokretsov said, “But what she lacked in training, we knew she could cover with her mental game, experience, and strategic thinking,”
Khrol began by winning her first bout in confident fashion. For the second bout, Khrol began ahead, 4-1, and finished 5-3. Next, against Carmen Andrea Correa Santa from Colombia, Khrol started off by winning, 2-0, and later in the bout received two touches against her before realizing that her weapon wasn’t working. That threw off Khrol’s focus and she lost the bout in priority, 2-3.
Even though she tried to get back in the zone, the last bout affected Khrol and she proceeded to lose the next two matches to athletes from Poland and Spain. Finally, Khrol managed to regain her composure and swagger and won one more bout, finishing the pool round at 3-3. She ranked 58th out of 113 fencers.
In direct elimination, Khrol dominated her first bout against Kamilia Abdyl-Khamitova from Kyrgyzstan, even though it ended with a close 15-13 score. Next, Khrol faced an extremely hard opponent, Kinga Zgryzniak from Poland, who ranked seventh after pools and didn’t lose a single pool bout. Khrol was behind through most of the bout, but near the end with 18 seconds left and two points behind, she scored a touch and got to 11-12.
“She had five seconds left to catch up and managed to do it when the clock had only .007 seconds remaining,” Mokretsov recalled, “Then in overtime, she won. That was an amazing bout and it put Jackie in a strong mindset for the next bout.”
To make top 16, Khrol fenced Olexandra Lazarenko from Ukraine and built a comfortable advantage from the beginning, finishing 13-8.
For top eight, Khrol faced a tough athlete from Egypt, Rodaina Gaafar. Again, Khrol was leading the whole bout and never let her foe doubt her advantage. The final score was 15-12.
To make top four, Khrol had to face another Ukrainian athlete, Anastasiia Zelentsova. Khrol started ahead and kept it up until the last 15 seconds where she had a three-point lead. At this point. Khrol started fencing too carefully and tried to protect the lead rather than fence aggressively to keep the pressure on the opponent.
Zelentsova fought up to a one-point deficit with five seconds left. The plan was to retreat and pretend to defend but instead attack when the distance got close. But under the pressure, Khrol tried to defend and Zelentsova evened up the score and won in priority.
Although she would have like to place higher, Khrol said her performance buoyed her spirit, and looks forward to her fencing future.
“I’m happy I made top eight in my first junior world championship and moved up to 13th in world rankings, she said. “I have two more years in juniors and I’m seriously focused on beating this result.””
— Jerry Del Priore