14 Mar

So it was decision time. I can’t compete without a regulation mask, the lame attachment on my bib isn’t sufficiently secured, and I’ve just been handed a needle and thread — needle and thread — and told I have 25 minutes (at least I got there early enough to deal with mishaps like these) to sew the lip of the lame attachment onto the bib. About a half hour to salvage my participation in this tournament.

Now my tailoring skills have never been that good, and the thickness of the bib (an otherwise benefical quality, given the frequency of hits to the throat area) posed special challenges. I tried, but five minutes into the task, after multiple finger pricks and even more loses of thread through the needle’s eye, I looked at my progress — thread through two holes, covering perhaps 5% of the area that needed securing — and acknowledged the futility of this task.

Options? My coach was there, I’d seen her as I had been checking in. Go to her, let her know the problem, see if she can come up with a solution? That, or throw a fit in front of the judges — no, wouldn’t work, would only cause irreperable damage to my fencing reputation, such as it is. No, seeking my coach’s advice was the only course of action that made sense.

Walked into the gym, saw her working with her students as they competed in epee. Keep distance . . . Not so big, use your fingers not the arm . . . Riposte, riposte! She was i her element, completely focused on her students, who matched her concentration with a passion that was almost tangible. It was a small gym, typical for most fencing tournaments, narrow walking lanes outside the painted edges of a basketball court. Four strips, the clinking of steel blades intermingled with electronic beeps and the occassional victorious yelp; fencers off-strip, conversing with each other while always keeping their eyes on the bouts in progress; a handful of specatators in folding canvas chairs, mostly parents or siblings of competitors. Everyone focused on the competition.

And me with my silly little wardrobe malfunction. Disrupt the beauty of this moment, everybody focues on competing solely for competition’s sake, to find a solution for my petty little problem? It just didn’t seem right at the time.

So I withdrew. Handed back the needle and thread, said I wouldn’t be competing. The judges were gracious enough to refund my entry fee, and I let my coach know what had happened. And then, I left, feeling as if I had never really been there in the first place.

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