En garde! Fencers from Manhattan Fencing Center headed to the 2024 Olympics

local fencers preparing for Olympics
Five top-level fencers from Manhattan Fencing Center are headed to the Big Games in Paris — and they’re aiming for gold.
Photo courtesy of Manhattan Fencing Center

Four fencers from Manhattan Fencing Center are preparing for their Olympic debut.

Like athletes in any international competition, these Big Apple swordsters have spent their entire careers preparing.

As competition day approaches, coaches and fencers from MFC are feeling the pressure and excitement of taking their talents from a Midtown facility on the biggest sporting stage in the world.

olympics fencing contendors training at manhattan fencing
Olympic contestants say they are leaning into the good — and not-so-good — parts of the training process. Photo courtesy of Manhattan Fencing Center

Elizabeth Tartakovsky, a 24-year-old qualifier bound for Paris, spends five days a week on the practice floor, with sessions lasting four hours each. Her preparation includes rigorous strength and conditioning, but what she believes will distinguish her is achieving the right mental state to push herself, trust her talents, and remain resilient.

“The athleticism and technique is something that every athlete on a high level has,” she said. “But as I get closer to the Olympics, it becomes increasingly important to get my mind right and my body rested enough so I can continue to push it to the limits.”

Growing up as an energetic child, Tartakovsky participated in numerous sports: dance, ballet, tennis, swimming — she tried them all. However, it wasn’t until 2008, when she saw her great-uncle and current coach, Yury Gelman, competing on television, that she became captivated by fencing.

“As a younger sibling, it was fun to be able to smack my older sister with a sword and have a way to defend myself,” she said. “I love fencing because it is the perfect mix of athleticism, creativity, and strategy. As my coach says, fencing is all about setting up ‘traps’ and tricking your opponent. It truly is a game of physical chess.”

After years of dedication to her craft, she now gets the chance to represent her family, her coaches and herself on the Olympic stage.

“I have basically been preparing my entire life for this moment so it feels so gratifying that all my hard work paid off. It’s definitely a mix of pressure and excitement,” Tartakovsky told Brooklyn Paper.

Gelman has coached 19 Olympic qualifiers, six of whom were medaled for their achievements. 

“It feels amazing. This is a result of my and my students’ hard work for many years,” he said on the chance to take even more fencers to the Big Games. 

fencing classes
Manhattan Fencing Center offers classes for kids ages 4-16. The classes are unique in that they are broken up by both age and skill, unlike most fencing clubs where kids are thrown into one big class. Photo courtesy of Manhattan Fencing Center

Fencing first started as a military dueling strategy but has since transformed into a game of physical chess where, instead of using wooden pieces to outsmart your opponent, sword fighters use intricate footwork and defenses to strike their enemy.

Athletes compete in one of three disciplines — foil, saber, or epee — named after the weapons used in individual and team matches. (This reporter took a stab at all three during a June 11 visit to MFC.)

Qualifying MFC students include Tartakovsky, Feres Ferjani, Maia Chamberlain Pascaul Di Tella, and Colin Heathcock. The group will be coached by Gelman and Vladimir Lukashenko.

A total of 212 fencers will get a chance at the gold when fencing competitions begin on July 27.