|Master of Sports B.Tsolmon was announced the second highest ranking fencer in Mongolia by the BRB National Rankings in 2016. After establishing a reputable sports career by becoming the Fencing Grand Prix Winner and two-time national champion, she challenged herself to become an international referee. She passed the referees exam of the Fencing Confederation of Asia in October 2016.
The second international fencing referee from Mongolia, B.Tsolmon, delved into fencing – one of the hottest and fastest-growing sports on every continent – in the interview below.
Most people in the sports sector commend you as a successful young athlete. As there are some people who don’t know you well, can you tell them a little about yourself and what you’ve been up to lately?
I was born in Dornod Province and graduated as a general practitioner, or medical doctor, from the Mongolian National University of Medical Sciences. I am currently continuing my studies. It’s been five years since I started doing fencing.
I guess both your profession and sports interest involves objects with sharp blades.
My close friends often make jokes about it since the outfits of doctors and fencers have the same color and both require the use of sharp instruments/weapon made of metal. My family has been very supportive when I took up fencing.
Do you think that fencing can develop as a sport in Mongolia? Will Mongolian fencers be able to get recognition at the international platform like boxers, judokas, and wrestlers?
The Fencing Association of Mongolia was founded in 2009 and is operating for the eighth year already. During this period, four fencing clubs were opened across the country and the number of people doing fencing has reached 300. As more and more people become interested, this sport is rapidly gaining popularity.
Recent achievements have proven that it’s fully possible to develop fencing as a sport in Mongolia. Our athletes are actively participating in large state, regional and world competitions.
Many people say that Mongolians are fearless and warriors by nature. In this sense, I believe that we have a very high chance of getting recognized as fencers globally. Although our athletes started training relatively late, there’s not much difference between their skills and European fencers.
People of which age group are more interested in learning fencing?
People in their 20s and 30s actively train in fencing. Nowadays, many young children and teenagers are showing interest in the sport. Our clubs get new members who don’t want to become athletes but want to spend their leisure time more productively. The best part of fencing is that anyone of any age can do it. Our oldest member is in his mid-50s.
Only two Mongolians have gained the title of international fencing referee and one of them is you. How did you manage to become a referee?
In Mongolia, people who passed the exam for a B-Level referee can take an international referee exam. I took training for people interested in becoming international referees, held in Tokyo last year, and successfully passed the exam. This year in February, I passed the International Fencing Federation’s examination and got qualified to referee for epee fencing. I hope to get qualified to referee all categories of fencing in the future.
Many Mongolians are getting licensed to referee international tournaments and competitions for all types of sport. How is having an international referee from the same country beneficial for fencers and the sports itself?
It becomes a root for the sport to develop. In other words, fair refereeing plays an important role in the development of sports. Moreover, it indicates the sport’s extent of development in the respective country.
Three different types of weapons are used in fencing. Do fencers have to be able to use all three or do they specialize with only one of them? Which one do you prefer?
The main three sword types are sabre, foil and epee. The epee, the heaviest sword, is commonly used in Mongolia. Practically all athletes learn to wield it. I got my international referee rights in epee fencing as well. At the beginning, I used to train with lighter swords but I switched to epee later since most instructors, coaches and female fencers didn’t use it.
Last summer, I attended the Fencing Confederation of Asia’s workshop to train female coaches for sabre category in the Philippines and coaching qualification.
It could be said that the foundation for advancing sabre fencing in Mongolia is ready. Looking at international practices, athletes first learn the basics with a lighter sword and gradually go onto heavier swords. As the three types of fencing differ in their fighting style and rules, you don’t have to learn all three. The success rate is higher if you specialize in one of them.
How has your life changed since you started fencing?
I completely agree with the saying that sports discipline people. I gained confidence from fencing and my time management and personal management skills improved. I have no choice but to improve in these areas as I need to make time to do fencing while studying.
What are the key skills required in fencing?
Speed, spatial orientation, and intuition are very important. But most of all, you need to learn to move and dodge at the right time.
Around 90 percent of an athlete’s performance is connected to his or her mental state. If a fencer is worried and anxious, they will most likely lose. Since it’s not a team sport, it’s crucial to work with yourself and improve your individual skills.
What kinds of challenges do fencers face while training?
The Fencing Association of Mongolia selected its board members for the first time in 2013 and re-appointed members this year. Many changes and advancements were made thanks to the board. New clubs were opened, increasing the number of amateur fencers. The board also provided the opportunity to compete in international competitions and signed a two-year contract with famous Russian coach Alexander Rovnyagin to provide training for fencers. Like so, many things were done in the past six years.
I believe that a good foundation is the key to developing anything and everything. We don’t need to rush to succeed and that’s the policy our association is upholding.
Professional fencers claim that fencing isn’t dangerous but for onlookers, it looks pretty dangerous. What’s your opinion on this?
A lot of people ask if getting poked by a sword will injure or hurt them. Out of all summer Olympic games, fencing is considered the safest. It’s completely risk-free as fencers have to wear protective clothing and maintain a certain amount of distance from their opponent. We can’t deny that a body part hit by a sword during a close combat will get bruised. But the mask is required to be able to withstand 1,600 newtons on the bib.
If you can go against any fencer, who would you want to battle with?
There’s a very famous Italian fencer who became the World Champion in 2015 and 2016 and even won a silver medal at the Olympic Games. Italians usually crouch when they fight. I think that going up against him will be a very good experience for me, especially for improving my skills.
How do you picture yourself in five to 10 years’ time?
I guess my career as a coach and referee would have been elevated quite a bit. However, I will not stop fencing. I don’t have clear plans to take part in any regional or world competitions at the moment but I plan to compete at the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics.
In 10 years, I want to have my own fencing club and train my own students. It would be nice to work in the health sector while refereeing international competitions.
Do you prefer being a fencer or a referee?
I can work as referee anytime. I have more than enough time. However, it’s better to succeed as an athlete when I’m young since the chances of success are much higher than when you’re older.
If you received an offer to play the role of a fencer in a film or drama, would you accept it?
I have filmed a commercial before so I have no reason to decline. One of my passions is to promote and spread a correct understanding about fencing to the public so I probably will accept such an offer.
This interview was originally published in Mongolian on Unuudur.