Iman Haq en garde, ready to fight

Following her experiences and achievements in fencing

Clara Fernandes, Writer

Cuts, bruises and scars. She pushes away her pain from long practices, focusing on her opponent’s moves. She can already taste the victory, but the simplest touch from her opponent’s blade shatters her plan into pieces. Within seconds, junior Iman Haq must rethink her tactics and develop a new strategy.

Although fencing may seem like a dangerous sport, there are four layers of protection gear that keep Iman safe during tournaments. Most of her injuries are acquired during practice, but the pain due to her injuries is quickly forgotten as it pays off when she competes. Her intensive training and passion for the sport has helped Iman identify her strengths and weaknesses better, as well as teach her that triumph comes as a result of hard work and discipline.

“I started fencing about two and a half years ago,” said Iman. “I wanted to try something more individual, something different.”

Iman was originally a soccer player, but did not feel as if she was pushing herself to her full potential while out on the field. She then found interest in fencing through her brothers, who were already involved with the fencing community. Since she and her brothers had frequently engaged in playful fights throughout their childhood, Iman decided to give the unusual contact sport a try.

“It takes someone courageous, someone who has resilience, someone who doesn’t give up, someone who’s persistent and determined to win,” said Iman. “Someone who can think quick on their feet, come up with a plan in seconds. You have to be mentally strong.”

Recently, Iman has begun to practice at Halberstadt Fencers’ Club in San Francisco, since she felt that her previous coaches had not been giving her the discipline and support that she needed. She felt as if she did not grow to her fullest potential at her old club, despite practicing on a daily basis. Currently, she practices twice a week in three hour sessions and has been satisfied with her progress. Although the sport is physically demanding and time-consuming, she genuinely enjoys practicing.

“[Practice] is always about trying to be the best you can be,” said Iman. “It’s where your coach gets to watch you closely and give feedback specific to you. I’ve always had a dream of going to the Olympics. Just working toward the goal is helping me improve every single day.”

Iman’s aspiration of participating in the Olympics one day is what drives her to compete in regional tournaments on most weekends and national tournaments every month. Through her persistent efforts, she has already earned enough regional points to participate in the Junior Olympics, which were held last month on Feb. 16 in Tennessee. There, her excellent performance allowed her to score national points. Her next goal is to acquire enough national points to be able to qualify for international competitions, and work her way up to the Olympic games.

“We’re thrilled that she’s found a sport that she’s so passionate about,” said Mona Haq, Iman’s mother. “Not many find that sort of connection to a sport so we’re happy for Iman.

We’ll support her all the way to the Olympics one day.

— Mona Haq, Iman's mother

. That’s her dream.”

Although she is passionate about competing in these events, the process leading up to tournaments is extremely hectic, with each weekend consisting of countless plane rides, leaving her with an immense distaste for traveling.

Aside from being physically exhausting, fencing also presents Iman with mental and emotional obstacles. Especially when she is the underdog in a competition, she finds it difficult to think under pressure and come up with a new plan. She pays close attention to her footwork in order to create distance between her and the opponent and is constantly anticipating her rival’s next move. Iman’s bladework comes hand in hand with her footwork, as she attempts to create sufficient space between her opponent and herself in order to land a strike and earn a point, making each step she takes meaningful. Her delicate handwork must be as sharp as her mind and follow the same rhythm as her feet.

“Sports in general is a great thing because it teaches you so many wonderful things that relate to life in general,” said Mona. “You an learn valuable lessons in courage, confidence, resilience, persistence, disappointment, and how to be a gracious winner.”

With such a strong discipline and willpower, Iman believes that she will fulfill her dream of going to the Olympics one day, fencing for Team USA on our television screens.

“I have really learned that I am a deep thinker and that I can think under the surface in a short amount of time,” said Iman. “I’ve learned that I am a fighter and that I have resilience. I know I have a lot of passion and love for this sport and I think it’s what really drives my determination.”