The mastermind behind the ultimately triumphant performance of the US Masters team at the 1970 World Fencing Masters Championships was, without doubt, Raoul Sudre, head coach at Cornell University. A year and a half prior to the event, he began calling prospective members to gather a cadre of young-ish maestros. Initially looking to fill a roster with nine, he ultimately settled on a team of six fencers with a few fencing on multiple teams.
What they were fighting for; the medals table at the venue in London.
The training regimen suggested by Sudre was for each member to go back into competitive training a year prior to the event, then participate in a two-stage group training camp with the other team members. The group initially gathered at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY for a couple of weeks of training, including daily lessons from Jean Jacques Gillet, then assistant head coach at Cornell.
The second stage took place at the Fontainebleau Fencing Academy, just outside of Paris. The head fencing master there, one Pierre Thirioux, was a friend of Raoul’s, and extended them an excellent rate. Money was an issue, as they were only able to secure $1,000 from the national fencing coach organizing body, then called the NFCAA (now the USFCA). The bulk of the funding came, I assume, from the individual participants.
The final group consisted of Raoul Sudre (Cornell), Charles Selberg (UCSC), Ed Richards (Boston), Michael D’Asaro (Halberstadt), John Geraci (West Point) and Richard Oles (Johns Hopkins).
Publicity photograph taken at Cornell. Fencing L-R: Michael D’Asaro, Raoul Sudre. Watching the action L-R: Charles Selberg, Richard Oles, Jean Jacques Gillet.
The stated goal of the training time was to build not only fencing skill, but also team camaraderie. Fencing masters being a rather competitive bunch, building team spirit could, I imagine, be somewhat of a challenge. Based on the result, I have to assume that it worked.
After their time spent in New York, it was off to France and the final stage of their training at Fontainebleau. Now, I know what you’re thinking: How about some home movies! Charlie Selberg took his movie camera with him to Paris and that footage has come to the West Coast Fencing Archive and we’ll share some of it with you here! This first clip is the group in the training facility. The fencers in action are tough to identify, but with masks off it’s fairly easy to spot Raoul (very little hair), Michael (a whole lot of hair), Ed Richards (who else is that skinny?), Charlie (with the camera) and Richard Oles (the young guy).
The group at the Chateau de Fontainebleau. L-R: Selberg, D’Asaro, Geraci, Sudre, Oles and Richards.
Another piece of Charlie’s footage was taken at the same time as the above photo and includes some rather epic clowning around – and a little petty vandalism that is frowned upon by an elderly French woman.
And so, finally, the event itself, and London.
From the Programme, the complete list of participants.
The team, ready to go! L-R: Sudre, D’Asaro, Richards, Selberg, Oles, Geraci
An overview of the venue during the action.
It’s like a convention of maestros! The electric toothbrush-looking devices are old-school ergonomic speakers for listening to the translation of proceedings in a language of your choosing.
The competitors at work during the foil team event. Geraci and D’Asaro are onlookers, as Selberg and Richards await the outcome of Sudre’s bout.
Selberg on the left against one of the British masters during the team event.
The American foil team at the top of the podium, with the Italians second and the Brits third.
Raoul Sudre explains the inevitability of the outcome to Geraci and D’Asaro. The person in between Geraci and Sudre is team manager, Richard Gradkowski.
The cover of the invite to the post-event celebratory dinner.
The post-event celebratory dinner, at the Martini (& Rossi) Terrace.
The excellent and almost entirely unexpected results warrant the cover of AmFen magazine.
The full list of results, with 3 gold medals and a bronze.
The headline for the article in American Fencing magazine, along with a photo of Ed Richards at the top of the podium with his individual gold medal (and champagne) for the Men’s Foil event.
The United States has fielded other teams to the World Fencing Masters Championships over the years but, to the best of my knowledge based on the available information, has never come close to the level of success achieved by this group in 1970.