When Prospect native Sandra Marchant was seven, “Star Wars” came out, and she just knew she had to have a light saber. While her male cousins were playing with toy guns, Marchant made everything into a sword and stabbed her foes like Zoro, the hero of her favorite television show.
Fast forward 18 years. At age 25, Marchant picked up a real sword, an epee, and found her life’s passion.
“The minute I held a weapon in my hand, the lights went on, I could hear music in my head and I just knew it was in my blood,” Marchant said.
Marchant has honed her fencing skills since that day 15 years ago and recently tested her talents in her first international tournament.
Marchant, her teammate Down Lorentson, coach Mal-Sun Marletto, and Alexander Turoff, another fencer friend from New York, packed their swords and protective gear and drove eight hours up to Kingston, Canada for the Canadian-American Veterans Cup May 15, a tournament for athletes age 40 and older.
Marchant fenced for hours, competing in three events non-stop before turning around and driving home that night. She returned triumphant to the United States after winning two gold medals and one bronze medal in her first international tournament.
“It was insane,” Marchant said of the tournament, which she added was mentally, physically and emotionally exhausting, but also a lot of fun.
Marchant took a gold medal in Veteran Open Women’s Epee, gold in Women’s 40-49 Epee, and bronze in the women’s team event. For the team event, Marchant competed with Lorentson and another girl they met from Philadelphia. Between the three of them, they had to get 45 touches to win.
The car was pretty heavy coming back, laden with Marchant’s medals, plus a gold for Turoff.
“It hit me when I crossed the border into the U.S. and I actually started crying in the car,” Marchant said.
In all the United States won 48 medals including 18 gold medals, 12 silver and 18 bronze medals in the tournament.
“It was a huge win for us and the United States,” Marchant said.
Marchant, a stay-at-home mom of three, practices her craft five days a week, from 6 p.m. to around midnight. She fences for the Farmington Valley Fencing Academy and Prospect Fencing Club, an organization she started through the Prospect Parks and Recreation Department.
“You’ve got to be dedicated,” she said.
Marchant’s devotion to fencing has paid off.
With her international triumphs behind her, she’s now preparing for a national competition held in Reno July 5. To earn a seat in the competition, she had to place in the top three in a qualifying tournament.
Marchant qualified in three divisions. She will be up against about 90 other women, including those on the national and Olympic teams, most of whom are under 20 years old.
“Qualifying at 40 is a huge, huge accomplishment,” Marchant said.
At nationals, Marchant will be fencing from 8 in the morning to 10 at night.
“It’s a true test on your body, your physically body and your emotions,” Marchant said.
Marchant prepares for that test by training mostly against men.
“Their reaction time is faster, and by training with them, my reaction time is faster,” she said.
There are only a few other women in Marchant’s age group from Connecticut competing at nationals.
“It will be great to represent the state,” Marchant said.
Last year, she took fifth place nationally.
“I cried my eyes out. It’s just so emotional,” Marchant said.
Aside from the competitive side of fencing, Marchant said she enjoys the sport because it’s fun and an intense workout for both mind and body. She has to practice every day to keep up with her younger competitors, who are faster and have more energy.
“It’s physical chess, but I’m more of a checkers kind of girl,” Marchant said.
Even though the sport takes a big toll on her body, she’s always covered in bruises, and she’s getting older Marchant doesn’t plan to stop anytime soon.
“It’s something I’ll do for the rest of my life—guaranteed. No question about it,” Marchant said.
She hopes to make the national 50-plus team when she turns 50.
“Don’t let them kid you, they’re tough as nails,” she said of the veteran team. “They’ve got a lot of experience under their belts.”
Marchant also has her sights set on competing in the Pan-American and World Cup tournaments.
“I want to travel worldwide and I want to compete with people in other countries and I want to beat them,” Marchant said.
When Marchant isn’t traveling the world out dueling foes she aims to inspire children to enjoy the sport through her Prospect Fencing Club, which meets year-round on Saturday mornings.
“It’s great because it’s in my home town,” Marchant said.