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Jacob Jurkech competes in Junior Olympics

Junior Jacob Jurkech shares difficulties and accomplishments throughout his fencing career.
Jason Zhang ’26
Junior Jacob Jurkech parries an attack with his epee during Junior Olympics on February 17 in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Philadelphia Fencing Division Youth Liaison and seasoned fencing competitor junior Jacob Jurkech participated in the Junior Olympics in Charlotte, North Carolina from February 16-19.

His final placements were Cadet Men’s Saber 289th/295th, Junior Team Men’s Epee 63th/63th.

It has been a long road to get to where he is today. Even though Jurkech is nationally recognized, it didn’t start that way.

“When I started, I originally viewed fencing more casually,” Jurkech said. “However, I just kept on practicing at home and practicing at the club. It allowed me to just progress pretty well.”

Shortly after Jurkech started his fencing career, the COVID pandemic disrupted his progress, which he says was a huge obstacle in progressing and reaching higher success.

“I took a little break for COVID because fencing was unsafe to do inside,” Jurkech said. “The biggest obstacle was probably COVID because it was right in the middle of my fencing time. [I] was halfway through just a season, I went to a tournament, and bam! Right after, I just couldn’t do anything.”

Jurkech says that tournaments were the main way for him to grow, and that practicing by himself hindered his progress. Still, he also expressed that putting in hours of practice paid off, even if it was without an opponent.

“I’m our team captain for the area [for Junior Olympics],” he said. “I also have gone to Nationals and [done] somewhat decently. And I’ve gone to multiple large regional tournaments as well.”

Sophomore Jason Zhang, who has been competing with Jacob for five years, shares what he admires about Jurkech.

“I really admire his tenacity, when he wants something he’ll work for it, he’ll put his head down and just get it done,” Zhang said. “I think it’s really helpful in fencing.”

In these tournaments, Jurkech, who is 6’4”, works with an extended arm.

“I’m tall for my age. So when I was fencing, I was much taller than the competition, which definitely gave me an edge in the reach. So that definitely aided me and got me on the right track for fencing,” Jurkech said.

Jurkech often uses his skills to unofficially coach people at his club, which he finds satisfaction in.

“I think it’s fun,” he said. “It’s fun to see other people succeed. And when someone really wants to learn, it’s great teaching them and then having them do it. It’s a really nice experience.”

Through coaching, Jurkech has garnered an appreciation for teamwork, which comes in handy during the team portion of fencing tournaments.

“I enjoy teamwork. Often times at tournaments, I’m with the friends at the club, talking to them, coaching them through what to do, so and so. So I often help my teammates out, even though it’s not a team event. So I think a team event will be very interesting,” Jurkech said.

Zhang said that Jurkech has been a good teacher.

“We often exchange tidbits, I have definitely learned skills and other things from Jacob at tournaments and stuff,” Zhang said.

Jurkech offers some advice for fencers, athletes, and people in general.

“The most important thing I would say I’ve learned is that, if you really commit time to something, put your mind to work, [and] put in absurd hours, you can get things done,” he said.

Being a national-level athlete is extremely difficult, and Jurkech looks back on his progress with awe.

“I would never have imagined when I was younger being where I am right now,” Jurkech said.

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About the Contributor
Jillian Thomas '24
Jillian Thomas '24, Sports Editor
Jillian is a senior and this is her third year on Panther Press! She is the Sports Editor, and outside of Panther Press, she is a Silks captain, does Speech and Debate, and listens to music!!
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