#LondonLions: From leading Lions to leading Olympians
Spectator and Spectrum are here throughout the next two weeks to bring you updates and interviews from Columbia Olympians in our #LondonLions series. Today, we profile one of our #LondonLions, fencing head coach Michael Aufrichtig. Follow @CU_Spectator and @CUSpecSports to make sure you’re up to date.
Michael Aufrichtig made a large impact in his first year as head fencing coach at Columbia. Besides helping the men’s team achieve their best finish at the Ivy League Championships in four years, he led the women’s team to be runner-ups for the league title. But before he begins his second season at the helm of Columbia’s fencing program, he has some work to do in London.
Named the fencing coach for the USA modern pentathlon team, Aufrichtig is participating in the Olympics for the first time. Though he won’t be coaching any Lions, Aufrichtig will be seeing Light Blue fencers in the Village, such as foilist Nzingha Prescod, CC’15.
Aufrichtig took time before heading off to London to answer five questions from Spectrum. Look for his answers after the jump.
1. Do you have any restrictions (curfew, etc.) for your athletes in the village during and leading to the conclusion of their event at the Olympics?
To clarify my role there [at the Olympics], there’s five Columbia fencers that are going to the Olympics. And I’m going to the Olympics as the fencing coach for modern pentathlon which has three athletes, none Columbia. That being said, in regards to curfews, I’m not the one that sets the curfew. There is a team leader that does that. So whatever he says, goes. When it comes down to it, I haven’t seen that article , but the athletes that have put so much time and work into it, they’re not going to waste an Olympic chance by staying out late , so I just believe that they’re responsible enough.
2. Is there a particular athlete or coach that you highly respect or admire that’s going to be at the Olympics this year?
Yeah, there’s a lot. One particular athlete is men’s epee fencer, Soren Thompson. He was in the 2004 Olympics, did very well, placed seventh. And then right before the 2008 Olympics, had a major injury, really pulled out a lot of muscles in his hamstring, and thought, “I might not be able to ever fence again.” Well, the past five years—that was 2007—never had any surgery, just pretty much strengthened up his legs, and here he is going to the Olympics again in 2012, and I feel he has a great medal chance as well.
Amazing story, and he trains in New York,.I’ve kind of witnessed him do it, and so, I really admire him for being able to come back and qualify, and right now he’s going to the Olympics ranked really high,—top eight—so I feel he has a really great chance of getting a medal.
3. What’s your perspective on how strong and/or successful Columbia’s fencing program is with four of the 20 fencers being past or current Lions?
The history of Columbia fencing is very deep and rich in terms of a winning tradition, and we won the most NCAA titles overall ever since NCAA championships rolled out, which is 13. We’ve always been strong and it shows it now in 2012, that four of the 20, or 20 percent, are either current Columbia students or alumni. And even looking forward to next season, Nzingha Prescod will be coming back as a sophomore, one Olympian. The team is very young, and I feel it has a lot of potential to bring many more NCAA championships for the future.
4. As a coach, how do you feel being selected to the Olympics? How do you feel watching athletes you’ve coached or worked with alongside you representing Team USA at the Olympics?
I’m really excited. It’s my first Olympics being selected as coach. And I reflect back on even how I got here, and it’s more about the preparation really, the last three years, giving these athletes the opportunity to have the right training environment, have the right training opportunities, get the right training plans. Doing all the things what really, when I go to the Olympics when the athletes perform, for the coaches really, we’re kind of sitting back and letting them perform. When they get a little nervous, if they get a little anxious, we remind them of all the work they’ve done. I kind of went on a tangent, but ultimately, I’m really excited about being there and watching them.
5. When the athletes do get nervous, what’s your philosophy on what’s the best way to get them back into their rhythm, and to make sure everything is all there?
Every athlete has a different cue to calm them down. So one of the things I really consider myself very good at is really learning what works for each individual person. Some of these things, as I said before, is just reminding them how prepared they are…
A typical thing is they get anxious and they don’t sleep the night before. We do a lot of things to make sure they get sleep the week before, two weeks before. Really just remind them, every day you start off with a blank slate. Every day, everybody has an opportunity, and especially at the Olympics…
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