Sherborn teen fences for US on world stage
The reigning men’s national champion in sabre, Eli Dershwitz will represent the United States next month at the World Fencing Championships in Kazan, Russia.
A member of both the US junior (20-and-under) and senior fencing teams, the 18-year-old Sherborn resident also won the individual sabre title three weeks ago at the Pan-American Games in Costa Rica.
The recent Dover-Sherborn High graduate has trained under Zoran Tulum at the Zeta Fencing Studio in Natick for the past nine years.
At his first world championships, in Budapest last year, Dershwitz made it through pool play and to the round of 64. This year he is a more mature and confident fencer.
“Last year at worlds when I was going up against older and more experienced opponents, I looked up to them and I felt my finish was just OK,’’ said the 6-1, 175-pound Dershwitz, the senior division’s youngest-ever national champion in the sabre. “But now I feel more ready and able to compete at the top senior level, and not just against people my age.’’
Sabre is one of three swords used in fencing bouts — the others are foil and epee — and is the modern version of the slashing cavalry sword. The major difference: Competitors in sabre can score points with the edge of the sword’s blade as well as its tip, and the target area is the entire body above the waist, excluding the hands.
“Eli is a great improviser and very creative in his bouts, but it is his dedication to his training and preparation that has made him even more successful,’’ said Tulum, whose other prize pupil, Westwood teen Andrew Mackiewicz, was runner-up to Dershwitz at the senior nationals, and is also on the US squad.
“I’ve known them since they were little boys, we’ve traveled nationally and internationally, and they’re like family to me,’’ added Tulum.
“Fencing has given them the opportunity to learn different languages and cultures and have a tremendous understanding of the world around them. And they do well in school despite all the travel commitments.’’
After winning his individual event at the Pan-American championships, Dershwitz hopped a plane to make it home in time for graduation ceremonies at Dover-Sherborn High School, although it meant missing being a part of the gold medal-winning US sabre team.
“I had missed my senior prom,’’ said the Harvard-bound Dershwitz, “so I definitely didn’t want to miss graduation. My teachers and the school administration have been supportive of my fencing commitment. I did school work ahead of time and made sure I turned everything in on schedule.’’
He had on occasion caught early morning flights to Logan Airport after a fencing competition, and made it to first-period class with little time to spare.
“Coach Tulum stresses responsibility on and off the fencing strip, to respect your opponent and make good decisions, and that has made me a better person,’’ said Dershwitz, whose fencing travels have taken him to North and South America, Europe and Asia.
One of his vivid memories is of competing at the U-17 championships in Jordan.
“We were fencing at a convention center and in air-conditioned tents,” recalled Dershwitz. “When I walked out I could see mountains and cliffs across the Dead Sea. It’s a scene you don’t forget.’’
He has been preparing for the upcoming North American Cup competition in Columbus, Ohio, before departing for the world championships, which will be held the third week of July.
“I’m training hard to get in better shape because most of the people I’m competing against are full-time athletes and more experienced and everyone has their own technique,’’ he said.
“Speed alone doesn’t win titles. The top fencers are in great shape, they’re mentally tough and they are used to the pressure.’’
At Harvard, he will be a part of a fencing team that has won back-to-back Ivy League titles — and three in the last four years — and annually sends fencers to the NCAA finals.
“Eli will be a top fencer at Harvard and he has the ability to win the NCAA championship in sabre,’’ said Tulum.
Dershwitz is ranked first nationally in junior sabre and third in the senior ranks. At the worlds, if he were to advance again to the round of 64, Dershwitz would be faced with a series of direct elimination 15-touch bouts held on one day.
“It goes from the morning until 5 or 6 at night,’’ said Dershwitz, who also has his sights set on the 2016 and 2020 Summer Olympics, although the former includes the individual sabre, in which only two Americans can compete.
The team sabre competition, however, will be part of the Tokyo Olympics six years down the road.
“In 2020 our team will be in full maturity at ages 24 or 25 and at their best,’’ said Tulum. “And Eli is part of the spine of that team we’re building for the future.’’
Schools in mourning for mentor Eladhari
Sami Eladhari, the varsity boys’ soccer coach at Lexington High, died June 18 after a short illness at age 32.
Eladhari was remembered by the high school’s athletic director, Naomi Martin, for his passion for soccer and for teaching the sport to his players.
“His passing is a huge loss on many personal levels,’’ she said. “Sami was a coach, mentor, and teacher to our students, athletes, and fellow coaches.’’
And, Martin continued, “he was always looking ahead, preparing for the next season.’’
Eladhari, a 2000 graduate of Arlington High School, was the varsity soccer coach at Lexington High for the last two seasons, and previously coached the school’s freshman and junior varsity teams.
He also taught Spanish at his alma mater.
The Minutemen were 9-3-6 in the regular season last fall, and 1-1 in the MIAA postseason tournament.
“His players at every level he coached here respected him and he respected them, and his influence had an effect on their decision-making on and off the field,’’ Martin added. “Sami never complained about his illness or how it restricted him physically, and he was the perfect fit for our program and for Lexington High.”
Eladhari, who spoke four languages, also coached several area teams, including the Sachems Football Club and the Greater Boston Bolts, and was a respected soccer clinician.
A memorial service planned by Lexington and Arlington school officials was held Tuesday evening at Arlington High.
The Sami Eladhari Foundation has been established in his memory to continue his effort to infuse a love for soccer in young people. Donations can be sent to PO Box 203, Arlington, MA 02476, according to an announcement on the Arlington High website.
Here and there
Bentley University women’s volleyball coach Sandy Hoffman has been selected to the American Volleyball Coaches Association Hall of Fame. She will be recognized during the group’s national convention in December. Hoffman, a Waltham resident who took over the Bentley program in 1982, has a 758-366 career record. Her teams have won nine Northeast-10 Conference championships, and reached the NCAA Division 2 tournament 11 times. . . Alan Goggs, the junior-varsity boys’ soccer coach at Brookline High last season, has been named assistant men’s soccer coach at Mount Ida College in Newton.
Marvin Pave can be reached at email@example.com.