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Their Friendship is on Point: Francesca Russo and Marie-Anne Roche

Names: Francesca Russo and Marie-Anne Roche

Hometowns: Wayne, NJ and Paris, France

Dorm: Howard Hall

Fencing Weapon: Sabre and Épée


So you guys are the two senior women’s fencing captains of a National Championship winning team. Does that change how you are training? How so?

Francesca: I think the way it changes our training is that we are going into this year a lot more goal-oriented. We are focusing more on athleticism, particularly with our new trainer this year.

Marie: I think we have to have a lot more rigor, because we know what we did wrong last year, so there is a lot of pressure to not make the same mistakes.

Fran: We are a lot more confident. Every day is really positive and it is like “We are training for the next National Championship.”

What is the difference between épée and sabre, for us non-fencers?

Marie: Well épée is cooler.

Fran: No sabre is. Okay, but actually, sabre is the fastest of the three weapons and relies heavily on instantaneous decisions. The target is the torso up. And it is a slashing sport, so there is a slashing motion, instead of poking, which they do.

Marie: Épée is slower, but it requires the most endurance because each action takes longer. Sabre requires more, would you agree Fran, that there is anticipation of what the opponent is doing because it is faster.

Fran: Yeah, it is more [instinctive], so you have to be a couple of moves ahead of your opponent at all times.

Marie: In épée you can touch the whole body, so you have to be on your game the entire time, because they can touch your mask, or they can touch your foot.

For those of us who are not on a National Championship winning fencing team, what makes Notre Dame fencing so special?

Fran: Well, we are a team of sixty-four people, so you have a family, essentially, that you see every single day. It is nice after a long day of school and stuff, to see the same faces. We do everything together, we condition together, and train together, which is different from other fencing teams.

Marie: We have a big team, and we have both genders, so we have a lot of differences, but it is our differences that give us unity.

Fran: We have a lot of different levels of fencers, but because everyone is so different, you can learn something from a walk-on and you can learn something from an Olympian. Everyone brings something to the table.

What do you love about fencing?

Marie: Ummm, I have to think about that one. I like it because it is always different. No two bouts are the same, so you are constantly changing and constantly evolving.

Fran: That’s a good answer Marie. I’ve grown up with fencing, so it’s part of who I am. I also like that you are constantly evolving. When I was 12 I used to think that I couldn’t get any better than I was at 12, but you do. You evolve and get better and you learn something from everyone.

Marie: I also like that each person has their own unique style, so every single person’s fencing is their own fencing. Cedric (the Notre Dame épée coach) says that you can see people’s personalities in their fencing, which I really like. I also like that it is a team sport but that you are performing individually, which is unlike most other sports. You need the support of your team, but on the strip, it is you out there. It’s a balance that you don’t find in other sports.

Best place to fence in the world:

Marie: I think that our facility is one of the best places to fence.

Fran: I also really like the Cameron Indoor Stadium (the Duke Stadium).

Marie: Really anywhere cool. Fencing in China was really hard because it was so hot.

Fran: School gyms are awful. I once fenced in Jordan outside, and it was like 120 degrees. It was so hot.

Marie: I fenced in Taipei once, and it was so hot that I fenced in shorts. And as an epee fencer, you aren’t supposed to fence in shorts because you can touch anywhere.

If you could travel anywhere in the world as a duo, where would you go? Why?

Marie: We said to the National Parks of America.

Fran: We are such nerds, we want to go to all of the National Parks of America (Laughing) Before all of the glaciers get killed.

Marie: Yeah, we want to do a road trip throughout the US.

What is each other’s catch-phrase?

Fran: “Oh, shoot!” (in a French accent) for Marie.

Marie: (Laughing) “I smell like cheese” for Fran.

Describe the other person in three words:

Marie: Fran is genuine, awkward, and amazing.

Fran: Marie is driven, awkward, and passionate.

Marie wants me to note that Fran was not present for the listing of her adjectives, so they both said “awkward” without realizing that they would be saying the same thing.

Images provided by interviewees

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Hello! My name is Nadia Tiy and I am a junior studying Russian and Education, Schooling, and Society. I am originally from a VERY small town in Minnesota, but I am happy to call Notre Dame my current home. I love all things involving books and coffee, so I can most often be found in Waddick's with a large coffee and Russian novel in hand. When I am not reading for my Russian lit classes, I am in DPAC stage managing, running (or walking) the lakes, binge watching Netflix with ice cream, or catching up with my friends (over coffee of course).
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