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Campus Celebrity: Penn Women’s Fencer Luona Wang

When most girls turn six years old, their parents give them stuffed animals or coloring books. When Luona Wang was that age, she got a sword. But, if your parents are the Chinese National Fencing coaches, swords are only a part of the family business. Since then, Luona has taken the fencing world by storm. She has traveled all over the globe to compete in a sport that some call a form of art. Her Campus UPenn sat down with this freshman from Alabama to talk about her sport, her accomplishments and, of course, the Olympics. Committed, focused and obviously talented, there is no doubt that with sword in hand, Luona can achieve anything.
Why did you choose fencing?

My parents are the Chinese national fencing coaches. My mom was a seventh place finisher in the 1988 Olympics in Seoul. My dad is a two-time Olympic referee once in Barcelona in 1992; that’s why I’m named Luona. He was also a referee in Atlanta in ‘96.
When did you start fencing?

I’ve been exposed to fencing all my life. I went with my parents when they were teaching, but I guess I started fencing when I was six or seven. It was fun to play with swords. When I was six, the sword was as tall as I was.
How was it fencing in Alabama?

Fencing was not popular in Alabama at all. I’ve been living there ever since I moved to the United States when I was six — we moved to Alabama, they were looking for coaches so we made it there and it’s growing a lot. Now my club has around one hundred members.
How do you train?

Lots of footwork. Lots of handwork. Lot’s of bouting; just fencing other people. And there’s also conditioning, lot’s of conditioning.
How often do you train?

At school we train Monday through Friday for two hours, except on Tuesdays there is an additional hour of conditioning.
What do you view as your biggest accomplishment?

I have to say winning the Cadet World Cup when I was 15 in 2007. Cadet is for 17 and under. The Cadet World Cup was held in Slovakia and 156 competitors represented fifteen countries. It was a surprise because it was only my second World Cup.
Do you get nervous when you fence?

When I was little, definitely, because I always wanted to do well. But now I don’t get as nervous because I’m considered to be a "pro” since I’ve been doing it for so long. But I still get nervous occasionally because I want to win so much.
What is the best bit of advice anyone has given you before a match?
I guess the best advice I’ve heard is from my parents. There are two things they’ve said. The first is you can’t think about your results, your results come naturally. You can definitely have a goal like “I want to finish in the top eight,” but you can’t think about it when you’re fencing. It should come naturally. My mom also told me “whether you’re nervous or not you still have to fence. So you might as well not be nervous.”
How is it having your parents as coaches?

When I was younger it was a lot tougher because I would argue with them - I was a stubborn little child. But looking back at it I really appreciate all they’ve done for me. They are very supportive. It’s hard having parents as coaches because at home they’re my parents and at the club they’re my coaches. It’s a whole different respect towards them. I know for some people, if they lose they deal with their coaches at the venue and then afterward they can just go home to their parents. But for me, I talk to them continuously, and whatever is not finished on the strip we take it home to talk about it.
What is it about fencing that you love?

Everything. Just everything. Fencing is called physical chess because, I would say, it’s a 90% mental sport. It’s a very beautiful sport. It’s a form of art. It’s just so much fun anyone can do it. There are age groups from 10 to like 70. And there’s no set personality because there are three different weapons and they each have their own personality.
Do plan on having a future with fencing?

I definitely have goals. I want to go to the Olympics one day, kind of following in my parents’ footsteps. Right now NCAAs are coming up and I really want to do well and make first team All-American. A couple weekends ago I won first team All-Ivies. I finished second in the Junior Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah last weekend.

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