Updated: Mar 31, 2022
By: MADISON MCCARTHY / SPORTS CO-EDITOR
Over the past two years, the LIU women’s fencing team has grown tremendously, adding talent from internationally ranked athletes to hidden gems found right on campus.
The team is led by head coach Ivan Lee, who was also a fencer himself.
Lee was a member of the 2001 U.S Junior World Sabre team and was the first man of African American descent to win at the fencing championship. Lee also won two gold medals at the Pan-American Game in 2003 and was a member of the U.S. Olympic fencing team in 2004.
After graduating from St. John’s University with a degree in journalism, Lee retired from the sport with no intention of coaching. However, Coach Lee returned to his hometown of Brooklyn to bring the team to its great success.
“Coaching was not something I was really interested in doing [at first],” Lee said.
Along with fencing, Lee also had been a referee since he was 17 years old.
“I enjoyed refereeing because it was a way to be neutral and I didn’t care who won or lost. I got to see the sport from a different perspective and understand the rules better,” Lee said.
Now, as a Division I fencing coach, Lee has been able to use the skills he gained as a fencer and a referee to better his athletes here in Brooklyn, including sophomore Laura Fekete who became the first Shark to ever win a National Championship in the 2021 season.
As a freshman épée last school year, the Hungarian native battled back from a shortened season due to COVID-19, as well as a few injuries, to become NCAA Division I Champion.
While Fekete was able to claim an individual title at the national level, fencing team titles are actually scored as both Men’s and Women’s combined. Earlier this month, LIU announced the addition of a Men’s fencing program for the 2022-2023 season, to be led by Coach Lee.
“There are going to be challenges but I am excited about it,” Lee said.
“I am looking forward to it — I guess for me I’m a vision person and Dwight, [the LIU fencing assistant coach] is a strategist. He likes making plans and putting plans in action. I have a vision for what I see for this team down the road, and I think I have the right personnel to help me get there.”
As for this season, the Sharks have already picked up wins over Detroit Mercy, Cleveland State, the University of Florida’s club team, Wayne State, Lawrence, and Denison at the DeCicco duels earlier this year.
On the national level the team hopes to expand on their presence after Anna Szantay, Chesja-Kaili Seck and Laura Fekete became the first sharks to compete at the NCAA Division I Championships last season.
While Fekete won the NCAA championship title in épée, earning first team All-America honors in the process, Szántay and Seck finished in the top 12 in their respective weapons to earn third team All-America honors.
While the Sharks continue with their season, Coach Lee has nothing but high hopes for the program, as they gear up for the end of the season.
To keep up with the women’s fencing team, the Sharks’ full schedule can be found on LIUathletics.com.
[Editor's note: An earlier version of this story listed Laura Fekete as being Turkish, although she is from Hungary. Additionally, her teammate's name is Chesja-Kaili Seck not Chelsea.]