Indiana Uniersity of Pennsylvania's Dr. Botelho Engages in Competitive Fencing

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Dr. Botelho is a faculty member at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, a core professor for the Robert E Cook Honors College, and a competitive fencer.

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it is physical chess for the very fit. You waiver a moment and you get stabbed. The fun starts when you start changing strategies in the middle of a bout because someone has figured out what you are doing -- and then you have to change what you are doing again.

When Indiana University of Pennsylvania History Professor Dr. Lynn Botelho is not teaching a class, participating on numerous committees, or preparing to publish a new essay, she spends her time lunging, attacking, and parrying as a nationally ranked fencer.

A fencing captain and champion in her undergraduate years at the University of Oregon, Botelho later participated on the Cambridge University fencing team while she was pursuing her doctorate. After taking a break from fencing to advance in her career, she jumped back into fencing and now competes at the national level. She noted, "It has always been who I am."

Botelho competes as a veteran, but also in Division I, where younger fencers of equal ability compete. The top four Division I fencers make up the United States Olympic fencing team. In fencing, players are either rated A through E or are unrated. Botelho is ranked C, and can only fence against those players with a C or better ranking. "I am at the bottom of the elite," Botelho explained.

Recently, Botelho participated in the Nittany Lion Open and finished third. At the recent Charm City Classic, held in Baltimore, Maryland, she finished very well with a third place. In big competitions such as the North American Cup and the National Championships, where Botelho finished eighth this year, fencers earn points that help form a national points ranking. Her current national rankings are 5th in Veterans and 53rd in Division I.

To train for fencing, Botelho runs daily and goes to the gym, like many athletes. Aside from this cross training, however, she is bound by contract to attend two private lessons a week. All the training Botelho completes is to prepare her for meets, in which she fences a series of bouts to five points each. Most individual meets are comprised of two parts, the pools and direct elimination. The pools establish player rankings by allowing each fencer to bout the other competitors one time. Following the pools, the direct elimination begins until there are four fencers remaining for the semi-final round, the two losers are each awarded third place while the winners advance to the final round to bout for first and second. Depending on the number of competitors, fencing tournaments can run from early morning into the evening.

So why does she keep working hard for this sport? She explained that, "it is physical chess for the very fit. You waiver a moment and you get stabbed. The fun starts when you start changing strategies in the middle of a bout because someone has figured out what you are doing -- and then you have to change what you are doing again."

Dr. Botelho's fencing mindset comes into play when she is teaching her students at IUP's Robert E. Cook Honors College where critical thinking is explored through an interdisciplinary liberal arts curriculum. Botelho states, "Fencing is critical thinking at 70mph! I have to figure out my opponents motivation, technique, bias (style) while at the same time be equally honest about my own and how it fits into the mix. Then, as they change what they are doing, I have to go through the entire process again and figure it out and make my own adjustments accordingly. All of this in 3 minutes! It's fast and fun. My old coach was once asked if there were any dumb fencers and he said 'yes, just not good ones!'"

IUP is a member of Pennsylvania's State System of Higher Education.

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