Senior Marc Baghadjian, a member of the Brunswick fencing team, recently earned a place on the Lebanese Junior National Fencing Team. Baghadjian, who specializes in the épée, was the highest finisher in his age group at the 2017 Lebanese Fencing Championships, held in Beirut in February.
Following the event in Lebanon, the Brunswick senior will join the Lebanese team at the 2017 Junior and Cadet World Fencing Championships in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, in early April.
Baghadjian, with three seasons of fencing experience, finished with a 17-1 regular-season record with the épée for Brunswick this past winter.
Following some encouragement from his local coaches, Baghadjian reached out to the Lebanese team regarding national tryouts. The Brunswick student, with Armenian-Lebanese heritage, was born in Beirut, Lebanon, in 1999. Noting Baghadjian's age, birthplace, and impressive épée record this season, the Lebanese coaches were intrigued to learn more.
After a Skype phone call with the Lebanese coaches, where Baghadjian used a mix of English, French, and Arabic in the conversation, all parties agreed that Baghadjian should pack his bags and his épée for a flight to Beirut to compete in an upcoming national event.
Knowing several languages, such as Modern Standard Arabic and a bit of Turkish, along with being fluent in French, Armenian, and English, helped the soon-to-be fencing world traveler. Virtually every language came in handy for Baghadjian’s trip to Lebanon, with French being especially helpful. Beyond French being the international language for fencing, the language is still widely used in the former French Mandate.
As a high school senior, traveling alone with a weapon to another country where English is not the dominant language isn’t easy. But Baghadjian and his family felt he was ready for the adventure.
“I had a letter from Brunswick as well as a letter from the Lebanese Fencing Federation explaining things. So with that information when I spoke, in French, to a Lebanese Customs official in Beirut, I got through the customs interview like a knife through butter,” chuckled Baghadjian.
While Arabic is one of languages Baghadjian can speak, the senior was happy to be greeted by his paternal grandmother at Beirut’s Rafic Hariri International Airport.
“Having my grandmother was a huge help,” said Baghadjian. “I’m not sure I would have done the trip without her there.”
Regarding fencing, the Brunswick senior has come to enjoy the épée and the swashbuckling style of the bouts.
“With foil and sabre [the other two weapons in fencing matches], there is a limited range to score,” noted Baghadjian. “Anywhere on the opponent that your épée touches, head to toe, it counts.”
At the event, held at the Lebanese Army High Center for Sport in Beirut, there was no junior division at the 64-person Lebanese team tryouts. Right from the start, Baghadjian drew talented adult épéeists, including skilled Lebanese military officers and special forces operators.
In the end, Baghadjian finished eighth overall, and first in his age group in the épée. The impressive finish qualified the first-timer with a place on the national junior team.
Up next for Baghadjian is a trip to Bulgaria for the Junior and Cadet World Fencing Championships in April.
As trip preparations are being finalized, Baghadjian looks forward to the Bulgarian adventure. Besides training with his new Lebanese team and competing on the world stage, Baghadjian is excited to be a bit of a tourist in the ancient region. If time allows, Baghadjian plans on visiting nearby historical sites and even dusting off his Turkish language skills.