Seth Kelsey is hoping that three is his magic number. Moving into the elite status of being a three time Olympian, Seth will take his unique style and try to spring from the success in Kiev, where the US Men’s Epee Team became the first US men’s team ever to win a world championship. Fencing.net caught up with Seth as he was preparing for the final two world cups before London.
KM: You are in rarified air now! How does it feel to be a World Champion?
It feels great! I had great teammates! Soren [Thompson], Cody [Mattern], and Ben [Bratton] are all great teammates and with Sebastian [Dos Santos], we were able to do something that no other US men’s team has been able to do yet and win a world championship!
KM: What was going through your head going into the ninth encounter with Grumier?
I knew it was going to be tough. I have never beaten him in individuals or team, so I knew he had to feel pretty confident going in.
It helped that I was calm and in a good place starting the encounter. I had a process goal and action plan going into the bout. I knew if I kept working hard, I could do this.
That is the best thing about team. Since it is a relay, everyone on the team helped with the score and together we were able to establish a three point lead going into the last encounter with 32-29 score.
He scored the first touch and then we doubled and then he scored another single. I knew that I was only up by one, but time was on my side. I knew I had to stay calm and stick to my game plan that Sebastian and I plotted out.
Since there was less than a minute left, time was now a factor. He had to start attacking more to get points. When he attacked, I was able to hit him in the arm which opened up the point spread again.
From there on, it was all a blur and all I knew is that we were up seven points with 12 seconds left.
KM: When did you know that you had won the bout and would be crowned World Champions?
Right then! I knew I still had to work real hard because I’ve seen leads like that dissipate, but if I worked hard for the next twelve seconds; it was done. I didn’t want to be that guy who lost a lead like that!
All I knew is when time expired, it really hit me: We were World Champions!
KM: So was it a bit of a letdown 10 days later in Heidenheim?
It’s funny. The US team has been on the medal stage before and we took silver vs. France in 2010 at World’s in Paris, but no one really seemed to pay much attention to us.
KM: Even for you being roughly in the top 10 over the last ten years?
Yep, even me! After Worlds in Kiev, everyone changed the way they fenced us. I know other countries must have studied the video of that bout because they changed the way they approached us. Well we did the same thing also. Just as they had changed, we had to change also.
KM: I take it France was out for blood when they faced you again also for fifth place.
Yeah they were! They fielded a bit different and younger team. They had definitely studied the video and fenced us differently than before.
They were able to get a lead and it was hard after that. Sometimes the bout is much closer than the score would lead you to believe. We were down and we had push to get points and they just opened up the gap in points. It looks like more of blow out then what it really was.
KM: That aside, what is it like being a three time Olympian?
It’s great though I thought it would get a bit easier.
KM: What makes you say that?
Well the field has gotten much stronger. It was also easier to focus on certain things. Since we were able to qualify a team the last two Olympics, if we focused on the team rankings, everyone on the team would qualify.
This quad, it was men’s epee team’s turn to sit out of the team portion of the Olympics. So I had to pay a lot closer attention to world rankings. I was very aware what I had to do to qualify since it was on an individual basis.
KM: So what are you doing now to get ready for London?
Well, I just finished today with a footwork lesson.
KM: Still doing more footwork?
Yep! When you get to a certain level, you can have all of the technique you want for a hit, but if you never get to the correct distance, you will never get a chance to use that technique. I still do at least three hours of footwork a week.
Is it all work now or are you still doing some other things like pottery to help keep some sanity?
Well I just took up the guitar in Jan.
KM: Really? What are you doing there?
I have been using Rocksmith to plug into my Xbox and play along. It shows a virtual fret board and I play along. Jason Pryor [a resident Olympic Training Center athlete] is a musician and he has been helping me as well as a UC [University of Colorado] guitar teacher. It’s been great!
KM: Awesome! Rock on Garth!