In her three previous trips to the Junior and Cadet World Fencing Championships, Katy Lupien has learned a lot. She's learned about travelling and competing in different countries and about the value of good preparation. She's learned what to do and what not to do.
This week, the 19-year-old leads a trio of Manitoba fencers to the Junior and Cadet World Championships in Taebaek, Korea, hoping to take advantage of all that she's learned before she graduates to the senior ranks.
"I have a good, well-rounded idea about competition now, especially international and world championship competition," said Lupien, who will compete in the junior women's sabre event. "Going into my last one as a junior, hopefully I'll be able to make a medal result.
"But if I can't get a medal, I'm going to go out (with a bang)."
Also headed to Korea are 17-year-old Daria Jorquera Palmer in the junior women's epee and 16-year-old Max Stearns in the cadet men's sabre. Jorquera Palmer competed at the 2004 junior/cadet worlds while this is Stearns' first trip to a world championship.
Provincial coach and Manitoba Fencing Association technical director Ayach Bounachada will be attending as a referee.
Lupien, who regularly competes in senior international events, knows who she has to watch for in Korea. As opposed to her younger teammates, she isn't intimidated by her opponents just because of their nationalities. She knows that European fencers aren't any better just because of where they were born.
"Because I travel so much and see them more, it's more the people I'm scared of (rather than the country they represent)," said Lupien, who was 22nd at last year's junior/cadet worlds in Linz, Austria. "They're people I can beat but I'm still kind of scared of them."
After failing to qualify last year, Jorquera Palmer is determined to make her mark this time around.
"I expect to do pretty well at these worlds, maybe top 16 or top 32," said the Kelvin High School Grade 12 student. "I've been training all year long and I've had pretty good results in the United States and I got to travel with the senior team in Europe (for competitions in Italy and Greece last month)."
Meanwhile, Stearns has been splitting his time between Minneapolis and Winnipeg. The Winnipeg native trains five days a week in Minneapolis where he attends Grade 10 but returns home two or three times a month for competitions and to train with Bounachada and his Winnipeg-based coach Aristides Faure Jimenez.
"I'm pretty sure it's going to be a tough competition," said Stearns, who was attracted to the sport by his childhood desire to be a pirate. "But I'm not too worried, I've gone to some tough competitions, just not to this level. I have high expectations for myself."
The fencers leave for Korea tomorrow and the competition starts Friday.
"This is pretty exciting," said Bounachada. "I've only been here for two years and to have three people at the junior world championships is a good result for Manitoba and for myself."