Seven years ago, Johanna Thill was playing pirates with her brother’s friends and couldn’t understand why they were so much better than her. When the boys explained they took fencing classes at Minnesota Sword Club, Thill decided to check out the sport for herself.
The Chanhassen student’s swordsmanship has come a long way since then. This February, she placed sixth in the under-20 division at the U.S. National Juniors Championships.
Thill, now 17, said she enjoys the speed and intensity of saber competition, her chosen form of fencing. She also likes that smaller athletes can use superior skill to defeat larger opponents.
“If I’m fencing boys, I try to hit on the wrist a lot because it’s a closer target and I’m shorter than most of them. And if it’s girls, I usually rely on being faster than them,” she said.
Thill isn’t just a fencer. She also competes in track and field.
“Track and field, it’s a lot of fun, but it’s very simple: I just run fast. There’s not a lot of technique to learn,” Thill said. “And with fencing, there’s always something new to learn, so it’s not just conditioning.”
Among the things she learned: “It’s not swashbuckling or anything. It’s very different.”