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Saturday, September 30, 2023
Sept. 30, 2023

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Vancouver fencer is back-to-back junior champion

Hee wins junior women's sabre competition

By , Columbian Soccer, hockey and Community Sports Reporter

Malia Hee’s second junior division USA Fencing Junior Olympics championship was just as sweet as her first.

The national title the Vancouver teenager won on Sunday in Richmond, Va., also was historic.

“For a while after it was over I still couldn’t believe that I won it,” Hee said. “I felt the same emotions as last year.”

Hee, 17, became the first repeat champion in the junior women’s sabre competition. She won six elimination bouts on Sunday in to finish atop a field of 139 competitors 19 and younger.

She repeated the junior division title she won in 2014 at the Junior Olympics. Last year she also won the Junior Olympics title in the 16-and-younger age division. When she received her gold medal on Sunday, the announcer told her she is the first repeat champion in junior women’s sabre.

A junior at St. Mary’s Academy in Portland, Hee said she felt a bit of added pressure this time — not so much because she was a returning champion but because junior year is when college coaches size up potential recruits.

Hee was seeded 10th entering the knockout round, after going 5-1 in pool competition. She lost her final pool-play match 5-4 because, she said, she was in a hurry to get done with pool competition.

Her only scare in the elimination bracket was in her first bout, which she won 15-14 over 14-year-old Keli Izenson of Atlanta.

“I was pretty lucky to win that one,” Hee said, noting that anything can happen when a match comes down to one touch at the end.

“It was pretty rough. I was up 8-3, but I slacked off a little and she caught up.”

Charles Randall, who coaches Hee at PDX Fencing in Beaverton, said a 90-minute break between the pool competition and the elimination round didn’t help Hee.

“That was a very long cool-down period,” he said. “She had to get herself back into competing form there. After that (first match) she pretty much was warm and in control of her matches.”

She won her semifinal bout 15-7 and capped her day with a 15-8 win in the finals over Marta Lasota of Silver Spring, Md.

Sunday’s victory followed some highly-competitive fencing over the last several months. In October, Hee placed 30th in a senior tournament in Portland, losing 15-14 to senior national team member Daria Schneider in the Round of 32. In November she placed third in a North American Cup juniors tournament in Louisville, Ky. In December she placed fifth in a Division I tournament held in Dallas, Texas. In January she placed fifth at a junior North America Cup in Salt Lake City.

Hee said she tried to stay relaxed during the tournament, socializing with fellow fencers and enjoying the competition. Being patient and staying calm during bouts is one area Hee believes she has improved since her 2014 championship.

“I’ve fought myself to be patient,” she said.

Randall said Hee is a much better fencer than she was a year ago.

“She’s stronger,” he said. “She’s developed a lot more technically and tactically she is more experienced.”

That experience now includes a third Junior Olympics gold medal in two years.

Columbian Soccer, hockey and Community Sports Reporter