A plot to foil for Canada

Monica Peterson has had to work through a set of obstacles many of Canada’s best athletes don’t have to endure

Olympics-bound fencer Monica Peterson

Olympics-bound fencer Monica Peterson

Training for the Olympics is never a cushy experience. But for Monica Peterson, she’s been working through a set of obstacles many of Canada’s best athletes don’t have to endure.

A lack of training facilities left Peterson putting final touches on her actions on her coach’s deck.

“Recently, [fencing] programs at rec centres have stopped so I’ve had to kind of find ways to train,” said the 28-year-old. “Past few years training on my coach’s deck behind his house.

“It’s not the best training environment, but you do what you have to.”

That aside, Peterson lived with her in-laws, Debbie and Kevin Peterson who live on Bella Vista Drive in Central Saanich, so she could train intensely with her coach Nan-Sang Ho of Victoria. She lives in Vancouver with her husband, whom she rarely saw before she flew off to London on Wednesday.

Peterson started fencing at age 12. Her brother Mike Kwan had taken up the sport and she wanted to follow in his footsteps.

“I didn’t start competing until I was 16 and I went to the Canada Winter Games,” Peterson said. “It was a good experience and really got me interested and motivated me to do more.”

After she graduated from St. Andrew’s Catholic High School, competition got more fierce. It took her to the World Cup series, Commonwealth Games and Pan-Ams.

“Experience is huge. The more tournaments you do the more experience you gain. You need the experience and I think it’s a big thing in fencing because there’s a lot of strategy and tactic involved.”

After narrowly missing qualifying for the 2008 summer Olympics in Beijing, Peterson ramped up her training in hopes of making it next time.

“I can’t say I was one of those people dreaming of it since they were five, but the more I progressed, the more you start thinking of it. You’re like, maybe I could do it.”

She qualified in April as one of a small handful of fencers from the Americas to compete in the women’s foils division in London.

Between North, Central and South America, one team and two individual fencers were chosen for women’s foils. A U.S. team will compete, as well as Peterson and an individual fencer from Colombia.

Qualifying tournaments are “are all quite difficult, especially in a pre-Olympic year,” she said.

Normally 100 fencers compete in world ranking tourneys, but this year there were 200. “And obviously people are fighting hard to qualify.”

When Peterson arrives in London, “I’ll be watching everybody,” she said of her opponents.

To excel, fencers must be able to read their opponents and adjust to an ever-changing array of actions.