In the fast-paced world of fencing, where each victory and defeat shape an athlete’s journey, Nick Itkin stands out as one of the world’s most talked about athletes. Recently clinching a silver medal at the 2023 World Championships, Itkin shares insights into his remarkable career, reflecting on past achievements, future goals, and the profound moments that define his personal and professional growth.
SC: Congratulations on your recent silver medal in the senior men’s foil at the 2023 World Championships! How does each victory contribute to your overall fencing journey?
That was a huge result for me. I wanted gold so badly and I was so close, but at the end of the day, it was an incredible achievement, especially during Olympic qualification. I made a few crucial mistakes in the final but overall, that was some of the best fencing I have shown at that level. I take each tournament at a time and focus on the next one.
SC: Being a two-time NCAA champion and a 2020 Olympic Bronze medalist is a remarkable achievement. How do these experiences differ, and what do they mean to you in terms of your fencing career?
They’re completely different. The Olympic Games is the most important tournament of my life. My dream has always been to be an Olympic Champion. That tournament is so unique because the pressure is just so high. It takes your mental game to the next level.
SC: As a fencing legend, you’ve achieved incredible success at a young age.
I appreciate that a lot, but I don’t consider myself a legend yet. I don’t think I am anywhere near my best shape yet and I think I have a lot more goals to accomplish in my sport. Especially with the Olympic Games coming up very soon.
SC: How do you balance the demands of your athletic career with your interests outside of the sport?
As you mentioned balance is everything. You have to enjoy the process of training and getting ready for the season. In addition, I need to spend time with my family and close friends to keep my mind in good shape. At this moment fencing is my priority but we will see what the future will look like for me after fencing.
SC; Tell us about a memorable moment in your fencing career that has shaped you as an athlete and a person.
I’ve talked about it before, but winning the 2020 ParisCIP was surreal for me because it was bigger than just fencing. That was the first international tournament I competed in without my father, who is my coach. My grandmother was sick at the time and my father stayed back home to be with her. I ended up winning that tournament, which I had never done before, and no one expected me to do. When I won that tournament, it brought so much joy to my family. Immediately my grandmother started feeling much better. It was a special
moment for me for me and my family.
SC: What advice do you have for aspiring fencers, especially those who look up to you as a role model?
Our sport is unique; don’t ever box yourself into a few actions. Be free to try new things and always find ways to add to your fencing. Focus on your love for the game, and don’t put too much pressure on yourself, especially at a young age. You never know when the results will come, it may take some time.
SC: How has the sport of fencing evolved over the years, and what changes do you think will define its future?
Oh, it has evolved so much over time and I think it’s going to continue to change all the time. Right now there is a huge advantage in going forward and being aggressive. I think the speed is going to continue to grow. I also believe technology will find ways to make the sport even more appealing to the fans. Fencing is on the path to becoming a household-known sport.
SC: Turning 24 is a significant milestone. Looking back, what accomplishments are you most proud of, and what goals do you have for the future?
It’s crazy to think about. Making an Olympic team and graduating from the University of Notre Dame are both accomplishments that mean a lot to me. My goal is of course an Olympic gold medal but it’s also to do a better job of growing my sport to attract a bigger audience.
SC: With your extensive experience, what mindset or approach do you bring to competitions, and how has it evolved throughout your career?
You know this is challenging for me. It is so hard to be consistent in fencing so your mindset has to be strong going into every competition. It is okay to be nervous it shows that you care. A way to get your mind off nervousness is to focus on your fencing and warming up longer. I also like yelling after I score a point to pump myself and make myself feel a little more confident.
SC: Being an Olympic Bronze medalist, how do you handle the pressure and expectations that come with representing your country at such a prestigious event?
I know the pressure is coming. I’ve been through it so many times. I am going to fight my hardest out there. I’m going to have my close friends and family cheering and motivating me. I have to train hard now to be in the best shape possible then.
SC: Beyond the victories and medals, what motivates you to continue excelling in fencing, and what do you hope to contribute to the sport in the years to come?
I want to put on a good performance for my family who sacrificed a lot for me. I know how nervous they get and how much money, time, and effort they put in to help me to succeed. Also, for all the little kids who look up to me and watch all my bouts. I can’t let them down. I want people to remember my style of fencing, the person I am off the strip, and hopefully to bring more outside attention to the sport.