Olympic fencer James Williams is already a silver medalist from the 2008 Beijing Olympics as part of the team saber competition. Now, he’s going for gold this July and August at the 2012 London Olympics. Though Williams recently acquired a job at TD Ameritrade, much of his time is still spent training, traveling and fencing in competitions around the world. During a recent trip to Spain, he put down a sword for a few minutes to email SN&R about his vintage blades, the Olympics and British tweed.
Is fencing good for picking up the ladies?
I think it’s a great way to improve your physical fitness and travel to interesting places and meet lots of new people. I also think being good at and passionate about anything is a [good] start.
Ever been stabbed or injured while fencing?
I broke a bone in my foot once and have torn the anterior ligaments in both my ankles. Beyond that, I deal mostly with repetitive-stress injuries. Fencing is very safe. The gear is made from Kevlar and no one has died fencing in 30 years.
Do you have a sword collection?
My coach gave me a replica of a United States cavalry sword from the Civil War, after Beijing. A friend gave me a samurai sword in jest and another gave me an umbrella that looks like a sword. Is that a collection? It’s mostly at my parents’ home in Arden Park.
How did you get started with the sport?
A friend recommended it to me and something clicked. I was , so [I] didn’t examine the choice too carefully!
What’s the biggest misconception about fencing?
People often think it doesn’t require
What’s fencing training like?
Cardio, weights, stretching, plyometric exercises, video analysis, mental training, and a heavy tactical and technical component. It is a really complex sport with no one best practice, so you really want to train for versatility.
Has it ever been necessary to use your fencing skills in a self-defense situation?
I’ve never had to use it for self-defense, but the sense of distance, attack and counterattack translate into boxing.
Where do you keep your silver medal from the Beijing Olympics? Have you ever worn it outside of the medal ceremony?
It is in a safe in my apartment. I have never worn it outside of the medal ceremony. I’ve never had the desire to do so.
Do you feel like you’ll do even better this year? Are you going to London with more confidence than Beijing?
I really hope so. Our team’s goal is to win gold. I am a more confident person now than I was four years ago.
Can someone make a living fencing?
Google “Tim Morehouse” or “Mariel Zagunis” to answer this question. [Note: The two are professional American fencers, who will also be participating in this summer’s Olympic Games in London.] Also, lots of our competitors are very well-paid.
Where do you see yourself five years down the road?
That’s a tough question for me. I’ll be 31 in 2017, and I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about that. I need to weigh my desires and abilities. I have been fencing for a very long time. I am thinking a lot about this right now and I have a couple of goals outside of fencing. I am not sure how long it will take me to accomplish them, though.
Your Facebook page says you have a master’s in Russian?
I am planning on applying to a fellowship program Alfa-Bank has to spend six months in Moscow in 2013. I also spent a summer as an intern in the Bank of New York Mellon’s Russian Alternative Dispute Resolution group.
Craziest moment in your fencing career so far?
It’s all been crazy.
What are you looking forward to the most about London?
Competing in the individual and team events and buying some vintage tweed coats.