Interview with Thomas Murray

by Adam Chrysostomou

Many people complain about getting home at 7 after a 2 hour school practice for their respective sports.  Just imagine what it feels like to get home at 11 after 5 hours of school and club practice. Thomas Murray is on the school fencing team and also takes place in many country and city-wide events in hopes of one day making the Junior Olympics.  I sat down with him to figure out how he does it all.

Adam Chrysostomou: What got you into fencing?

Thomas Murray: “Well, when I was around 8 years old, my mom saw an ad in the newspapers advertising the Staten Island Fencing Center.  She had asked me if I wanted to do it.  I didn’t really want to it at first.  Eventually I went to the center and saw some of the instructors do a presentation.  It looked pretty cool.  Plus, what eight year old kid wouldn’t like to play with swords.  I stayed at the Fencing Center for 5 years, and then I moved around between two places in Manhattan and Downtown Brooklyn.  These two places are extremely popular in the fencing world, and many Olympians have walked in and out of those doors.  I aspire to be like them.”

AC: How is the fencing season going?  Any surprises?

TM: “Well two weeks ago, my appendix ruptured.  That was a big surprise.  It was a big setback.  I was out for the last two weeks which included a crucial game against Brooklyn Tech.  It also looks like I’ll be out at least another week.  So there’s that.  However, since freshman year we usually finished first on the island and foil never ended less than 3rd in the PSAL.  This year we have a lot of seniors on the team, so we look to dominate.  We’re gonna win epee, we’re gonna win foil.  There’s no other way.”

AC:So how exactly does PSAL fencing differ from USFA?

TM:“It’s different and the same all at the same time. USFA is regular solo fencing and PSAL is team fencing.  Before high school, I never fenced on a team, so when I was trying out, I was extremely nervous.  I thought the coach wasn’t going to take me.  Eventually he took me and I ended up anchoring for foil, which is the most important position.  The way team fencing works is that there are 3 matches.  There are substitutions every 5 touches.  The are nine 5 touch bouts so first to 45 points wins. There are three starters and each starter plays three bouts.  Team fencing is different from solo fencing because before, I just depended on myself but now I have to trust my teammates to build me up so I can take the other team down.”

AC: Fencing in the future?

TM: “Yea, for sure.  I’m actually only applying to Division 1 schools in hopes of continuing fencing in college.  There’s no doubt in my mind that I can make the teams.  The competitions that I go to with the USFA are full of college scouts and coaches, so I’ve basically been trying out for the last 4 years.  As it goes for what happens after college, I’m not sure yet.  I always saw myself in a medical field and didn’t really think about fencing.  Now that I think about it though, fencing will never exit my life.  Whether it be that I fence for fun, or coach, I will always be keeping up with fencing competitions around the world.”

AC: How does fencing influence your life?

TM: “Through fencing, I have developed a lot of good traits. What a lot of people don’t know is how much time and commitment goes into my schedule.  You have people that complain that they get home at 8 after playing their school sport.  After MSIT fencing practice, I take the bus to the ferry to go fence in downtown Brooklyn.  Most nights I get home at 11 and I haven’t even started homework yet.  Fencing has taught me to be focused on my goals.   It taught me good management.  It taught me to devote the time and put in the hours.  To be the best you have to train like the best.”

AC: National rank? City rank?

TM: “Well three weeks ago, I won the City Individual Championship and according to most coaches I’m the best in the city. As it goes for my National Rank, my appendix rupturing kinda messed that up for me.  The weekend after it ruptured, I was supposed to go to Detroit for one of the biggest competitions.  Like I said earlier, these National Competitions stir up a lot of commotion between the college coaches.  It also would have helped me qualify for the Junior Olympics.  The next event is in November, so hopefully I’ll do better then.”

AC: Junior Olympics?

TM: “The Junior Olympics has been a dream of mine since I joined fencing. The Junior Olympics consists of people from the United States and Canada.  For me to win the Junior Olympics would mean the world to me.  I have a really high respect for the Junior Olympics.  I don’t really know how to put it into words.  It holds a special place in my heart that can only be filled by getting first place.”

AC: Role models?

TM: “Well the whole US Olympic team is just inspiring.  I actually fenced a couple of them at the clubs in Manhattan and Downtown Brooklyn.  I try to emulate them because they are just perfection.  Every move they make, the fluidity of their technique just take my breath away.  There’s so much learning you can do from watching them, and I actually got to fence them.  Also, Coach Ginos.  He’s one of the, if not THE Best fencing coach in psal.  He came in to coach my sophomore year not knowing much about the sport, and that’s the year that foil won the league.  He puts so much passion and just motivates us to do better.  We basically taught him a lot of the rules during sophomore year and he has taken us so far over the years.”

AC: Shout out?

TM: “Shout out to the whole team for trying their hardest.  Because I anchor, I’m supposed to be doing a lot of catching up if my team does bad, but they always make my job easy. Shout out to “Sexy Rexy” for always making practice fun.  Thanks to Ella for reading my college essay.  And finally, thanks to all the guys at the ferry at 10:30 at night that didn’t leave the dock as I was sprinting across the terminal.”

Thomas and the rest of the fencing team look to try and capture 1st in the division from Brooklyn Tech as they are one game behind.  The next home game for the Seagulls is November 4th as they take on Benjamin Banneker Academy.  As for Thomas’s individual event, his next major event is in November, as he hopes to qualify for the Junior Olympics.  I would like to thank Thomas for giving me some time out of his busy schedule to do this interview. This is Adam Chrysostomou signing off.

Edited by MaryKate Drennan

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