The Bond : Fencing – Hunter Moricz and Zbigniew Pietrusinski
I have the pleasure of working with CBC and Petro-Canada on a program called FACE (Fuelling Athlete and Coach Excellence) that supports up-and-coming athletes that don’t yet qualify for government funding.
Every year, Petro-Canada selects fifty-five promising athletes from across Canada. These athletes and their coaches are awarded a $10,000 FACE grant to help them along their journey, with $5,000 going directly to the athlete and $5,000 to their coach. FACE grants are often used for training, equipment, coach education, and travel expenses for competitions.
What this means for me is that I visit Athlete and Coach recipients photographing their training session and observing what makes their relationship special.
For me photography is a great way to express myself while trying to learn the very most of out a specific skill just as I did while rowing.
In this assignment I had the pleasure of meeting fencers Hunter Moricz and his coach Zbigniew Pietrusinski both members of the North Vancouver Fencing Club.
Hunter and the rest of the Petro-Canada FACE athlete stories below
It was great to understand a little more about the specifics of fencing while also learning about how the relationship between Hunter and Zbigniew developed and observing how it continues to grow toward a common goal.
Below are some of my favourite photos and quotes from both athlete and coach.
Hunter Moricz joined the North Vancouver Fencing Club at ten years old after his mother suggested it would be something he would be interested in. It was there that Moricz met maitre d’armes Zbigniew Pietrusinski and they have been working together to where now Hunter is one of the top ranked fencers in the country and represented Canada at the Junior and Cadet World Fencing Championships April 1-10, 2017 in Plovdiv, Bulgaria.
Pietrusinski (left) and Moricz (right) demonstrate a warm-up drill where they balance their sabres and move further and further apart and on command lunge forward in an attempt to catch their partners weapon before it hits the ground.
Pietrusinski explained that “in fencing repeatedly practicing blade movements is necessary to properly learn how to respond in the face of split-second decisions.” When Hunter was 9 or 10 years old Pietrusinski tested Hunter to see if he could follow instructions that would seem pointless and boring. “Most kids would lose interest in a few minutes performing drills such as hitting a mask, but Hunter continued to hit the mask until the end of class demonstrating the work ethic and trust a student needs to have in their coach to excel” said Pietrusinski.
“In the first class Pietrusinski got me to hit a mask hanging on the wall. After hitting the target for a while, Zbig was busy coaching someone else and I think he forgot about me, but I kept hitting the mask until the end of class” explained Moricz.
Moricz explained that Pietrusinski can be tough and brutally honest, but also is very caring and the older he gets the line between coach and friend is beginning to blur and he is becoming more of a friend, but also still very clearly the coach.
Pietrusinski says “I see a lot of gifted young people try to fence, but their natural gifts are not enough to succeed in higher level competition. In Hunter I see the exceptional self-discipline in training combined with natural abilities, and I believe that combination will continue to lead to greater success.”
Hunters dedication to continual improvement has allowed Pietrusinski to work Hunter harder than most athletes at his level. “He constantly rises to both physical and mental challenges and pushes forward in his training” said Pietrusinski. “Hunter clearly understands that investing in all aspects of his performance, fitness, nutrition, psychology, and mental wellbeing enables him greater perseverance to the difficulties he will face in fencing and in life.”
Pietrusinski and Moricz mainly talk about fencing, training, competition, changes in rules and refereeing, but also Hunters options moving forward in terms of his goals in life and post-secondary schools. They spend quite a lot of time discussing which Universities with strong fencing programs Moricz might be interested in scholarships from.
Pietrusinski and Moricz dual during an extra one on one training session held at a small gym in North Vancouver. Moricz leaps scoring a point on Pietrusinski by hitting him in the target zone between the waist and the neck.
One of Moricz older jackets lays on the gym floor outside his bag. Jackets like this one made of stainless steel fibres can last over a year before having to be replaced, whereas cheeper ones made of copper only last a few months.
“I started fencing when I was 10 years old and the club had many members of various ages which gave me the opportunity to try and beat kids one year older, and then two years older, and so on and so on” said Moricz. “When I got better I entered more tournaments and that helped further accelerate my improvement as the current fencers at my club don’t go to as many tournaments as I do.” Moricz further explained that because of his success at those tournaments, Pietrusinski gives him more personalized training which results in his skills developing at a higher rate than his friends at the club.
Pietrusinski watches as his group of 13 athletes tethered to electronic scoring systems fence lengthwise across a gym floor with the score displayed on a monitor at centre court. The photo is a multi exposure of 9 photos taken at a slow shutter speed.
Moricz explains that if he had to choose between a father figure, brother, friend or mentor Pietrusinski would be a “mentor because he uses the experience and knowledge he gained from years of fencing and passes it along allowing me to grow as a student and person.
“The larger international tournaments allow Hunter the exposure to top competitors and referees that he needs to continue his progression as a high performance athlete while he is training at home in North Vancouver” said Pietrusinski.
Moricz and Pietrusinski mostly talk about fencing related activities, such as preparing for tournaments, keeping healthy, and current fencing rules. But Moricz is also interested in when Pietrusinski shares life lessons. “He has many stories from his own personal trips, tournaments, and general experiences” explained Moricz.