She can parry. She can lunge. And now, she’ll be doing it on the world stage.
Northwest Las Vegas resident Amy Montoya, 51, has qualified to represent the U.S. and Nevada at the 2013 Veterans World Fencing Championships in Bulgaria in October. She is set to fence in two events with the epee, a fencing weapon with a triangular cross-section blade and a large bell guard.
“I was 40 when I started. That’s kind of unusual,” she said.
Eleven years after her initial experience, Montoya’s dedication to the sport has brought her to the pinnacle level.
She is coached by fencing master Yves Auriol, a four-time U.S. Olympic team coach, at the Fencing Academy of Nevada, 1220 S. Rainbow Blvd. Auriol has coached fencers to six World Championship veteran team berths since 2006.
Montoya qualified for the U.S. team by being the second-place team member this year for veterans women’s fencing after having placed as a first alternate for the last two years. First place is held by Christina Ford of Portland, Ore.
Auriol said his adult program is a strong one.
“We have already had Evan (Ranes) in the world championship three years ago and, besides Amy, we have another guy, Sean Ameli, going his third year in a row,” he said. “We have good veterans.”
Ameli, a Summerlin resident, will fence on the veteran men’s epee 50s in Bulgaria. It is unusual for any coach to send two competitors in one year.
What’s the vibe like at that level?
“For one thing, every fencer at the world championships has already proven themselves in their own country,” Ameli said. “There’s a unique intensity and tremendous pride among the competitors, which, along with representing the U.S. and U.S. fencing, the possibility of having the U.S. flag raised and the anthem played (due to) your results is an inspiration.”
He said that with Montoya’s level of fencing and Auriol’s training, there wasn’t a lot he could tell her that she didn’t already know.
“So I would tell her to enjoy every minute and go there to win it,” Ameli said.
The people who made the U.S. team compete in an individual event, and then the top two scorers in each age group and weapon category will compete in a team event.
Montoya has competed regionally and nationally for years. For the 2012-13 season, she fenced her way to three bronze medals, resulting in her second-place finish for the season. In December, Montoya competed in Milwaukee, then, in July, in Columbus, Ohio. The points from those two wins helped rank her in the top four nationally, which qualified her for the international competition. Montoya said she initially didn’t think she had garnered enough points and was surprised to learn she’d be going to Bulgaria.
“I was pretty excited,” she said. “It was something I always wanted to do since I’d first learned there was a veteran team for seniors, so it was a goal of mine. I just wasn’t sure if I’d make it or not.”
It’s a notable feat for someone who initially had no interest in trying the sport. Her daughter, Kimberly, now an adult, had been involved in fencing since she was 14, taking lessons at the Fencing Academy of Nevada and fencing in college at the University of Notre Dame. But when she was new to the sport, Kimberly and a friend were scheduled to fence in a four-person team event. The girls couldn’t find two people to complete their team, so they turned to their mothers.
Montoya and the other child’s parent agreed hesitantly to step into the open berths. But what Montoya had expected to be her only event lit a fire in her, and she was hooked.
“For four years, it never interested me, but the minute I put on that mask and started playing around with the epee, it was so much fun,” she said. “And it’s great exercise.”
She began taking lessons. Her husband, Vinnie, got involved and is now the fencing academy’s armorer. She joked that she has picked up pointers from watching HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” a medieval fantasy show with battling knights. She especially likes to suit up and parry after a tough day at work with the Department of Welfare.
“It’s a good way to get your frustrations out,” she said.
Her devotion to the sport has not gone unnoticed.
“She’s a hard worker, very dedicated,” Auriol said. “It’s no secret. If you don’t work hard, you don’t get there.”
Montoya fences three times a week, more often before tournaments. She enters competitions once or twice a month. Now, she gets to face the best of the best. She said she doesn’t want to let anyone down, so she’s feeling the pressure.
As far as psyching oneself up at the competition, Ameli said, “For me, the first thing I remind myself is that if worst comes to worst, no one gets hurt if I lose. ... Once I arrive in Bulgaria, it’s time to get to work.”
To prepare, Montoya is spending more time at the fencing studio and putting more effort into her practices. She also goes to the gym to work out with weights and swim.
“I’ve been training really hard,” Montoya said. “Now, everything’s starting to click.”
Contact Summerlin/Summerlin South View reporter Jan Hogan at email@example.com or 702-387-2949.