Fencing: Drew senior Alexander Massialas qualifies for London Olympics

Drew senior Alexander Massialas (left) competes against a Hungarian fencer in Catania, Italy in October. (Photo courtesy of USA Fencing)

By Jeremy Balan

Drew School senior Alexander Massialas has played soccer, basketball and has swam for the private high school, but what he did on Jan. 18 in Spain transcends prep sports in San Francisco.

The 6-foot-2, 17-year-old fencer and San Francisco native finished seventh in the La Coruna Foil World Cup to qualify for the upcoming London Olympic Games as a member of the United States National Team.

Massialas, the top-ranked junior and senior foil fencer in the nation, will be the second-youngest athlete to ever compete for the US Fencing team in the Olympics.

Drew senior and world-class fencer Alexander Massialas. (Photo courtesy of USA Fencing)

“This is one of the dreams I’ve had since I was a little kid, growing up seeing the Olympic rings around my house,” Massialas said. “I always wanted to be an Olympic champion. I’m young and hopefully I can do it this year, but in four years, I’ll make another run at it and maybe again another four years after that.”

Massialas is also following in the footsteps of his father Greg, who was a three-time Olympian for the US Fencing team in 1980, 1984 and 1988, but never medaled.

“My dad did it three times in the past and I’m just glad to follow in his footsteps,” Massialas said. “Hopefully I can bring a medal back for my family, my country and for Drew.”

He first began competing at the age of 7, started competing nationally at 8 and participated in his first international competition at 13. Massialas has since traveled the world to compete and will continue to do so leading up to London, including trips to Venice, Italy and Germany in upcoming weeks.

“I’ve been all over the place,” Massialas said. “There are so many [stories from traveling the world]. We always have a great group of guys going to any event and all of my teammates go out, have a good time and try to do the best we can.”

The 17-year-old won’t be going into the Olympics with dry feet, however, as he has been competing against world-class senior competition for several years. Still, a medal is on his mind and he is training up to five hours a day in preparation.

“I’ll probably be the youngest competitor there, but I’ve medaled at a couple of World Cups this year and I’m shooting for a medal [in London],” Massialas said. “Making the Olympic team is an honor, but to win something for my country would be even better.”

Bound for Stanford after his final semester at Drew, where he will continue to fence, the senior has fully embraced the high school athletic experience, even though he is absent from practices often and misses considerable chunks of school time due to his international competition.

“He’s just an upstanding guy and a great kid,” said Drew athletic director Carlos Reed. “It’s amazing to watch and to know that there are kids who aren’t even the athlete he is that chose not to play school sports in favor of club sports. He could have been a great basketball player, but he wouldn’t have been an Olympic basketball player, so I always tried to keep my coaches in perspective.”

“I love being involved in athletics, not just fencing, and I’m really grateful I’ve been able to play sports at Drew,” Massialas added. “It has all been worth it and Drew has been 100 percent behind me the whole way.”

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  1. Denis Ivanov says:

    YEAH ALEEEX! Your ensemble wishes you luck!

  2. Don L. says:

    Cool. Good luck to Alexander! I guess since he goes to Drew, he didn’t fence in the AAA where Convent / Stuart Hall and University compete as well. I was a fencer in high school for three seasons and it was a fun sport to participate in. I wasn’t particularly good but it was a fun time. One of my teammates during my sophomore year (Olga Chernyak) was a Penn State individual fencing champion and fenced at the World Championships though she never got an opportunity in the Olympics. Our coach (George Nonamura) did fence in the Olympics though. San Francisco’s got a bit of a fencing history and I’m glad the sport still thrives among six of the AAA schools and the privates.

    • GCJ 01 says:

      Fencing looks like fun. I’ve never understood the rules or how to play it.

      • Don L. says:

        GJC 01,

        HA – It would probably be better to give you the exact technical terms from online but let me give you my memories instead. If you’ve seen any fencing matches from the Olympics, the two competitors are on a strip. They face each other (obviously) in a staggered stance (front foot facing forward, back foot perpendicular. THe two fencers can only go “back and forth”.

        The main purpose of fencing is to score points or “touches” (I think this is the technical term). if I recall, the matches go up to 5 points / touches. In the context of the team, there were 9 matches and the team that won the most matches won the “game” and that’s how the standings were determined. I don’t recall if the standings had anything to do with the team championship or maybe just a “regular season title”.

        At the end of the fencing season, there was an All-City tournament. Each team had to select three of their best fencers (boys / girls) along with an alternate. The fencers themselves were in a battle for the individual titles but also impacted the team championship title also (again, not sure how this worked). In the AAA, fencing is primarily done with the foil though there are others like Epee and Saber.

        For me personally, I fenced three seasons (though my sophomore season was a wash due to non-sports injury which meant I couldn’t participate). I came back in my junior season and apparently had a decent season (don’t remember a ton of details) and I was an alternate in the All-City tournament. When one of the guys who was selected to be in the tournament hurt himself a few days prior, I was suddenly fencing in the tournament. Though I was eliminated in the first round against one of the top guys, my performance was good enough to get me the Most Improved Player. :)

        One last thing, when it came to points / touches. In my first two seasons, the scoring / officiating was MANUAL. THe official had to go through a sequence of events to see who got hit first. My last season, fencing went electronic which made things a little bit easier.

  3. photog says:

    Good Luck Alex!!!!!!

  4. GCJ 01 says:

    Congrats Alex and good luck!

    • WCAL Alum says:

      It’s truly ironic with all the blabbering about what DI schools nonsense all these posters hang their hats on, from the Major” sports of football, basketball and baseball and one, if not the smallest h.s in the City has one of its own qualify for The Olympics (Yes, The Olympics), plus attend Stanford in the fall. Good one for the small obscure sports and human interest fraction for keeping things in perspective.

      • WCAL Alum says:

        Could also be others who qualify from the City:
        Isnt there a young lady trying out for women’s boxing?
        Shannon Rowbury (SHC) qualified for Beijing (long-distance), and is in the running this year.
        Any SI crew members, being part of a team hoping to qualify.
        There may be others. Good luck to all.

        • Ari Gold says:

          Thats a fantastic accomplishment to be on the Olympic team. Not only to participate but to live in the olympic village with all the other athletes from all other countries.

  5. WCal Fan says:

    That’s awesome! Love the pic too.

  6. M Air J says:

    Best of luck young man!

  7. airball says:

    Awesome! It always amazes me what our students can accomplish with hard work, dedication, etc…Well Done!

  8. BCLWest says:

    Congrats Alex! Way to go!

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