|Quick Stats: Soren Thompson
|birth date:||May 5|
|hometown:||San Diego , CA|
|major:||Art & Archaeology|
|training area:||New York, NY & Los Angeles, CA|
|personal best:||7th – 2004 Olympics|
|outstanding achievement:||Holds US record for best individual men’s epee result in World Championships and best individual men’s epee result in Olympics since 1956|
|career goals:||To gain work in emerging markets while training, and to be able to operate own business following 2008 Olympics|
In 1999 Soren started his collegiate fencing career by representing Princeton University at the World University Games. He went on to become the 2001 NCAA Champion, 2002 NCAA Silver medalist, and 2005 NCAA Bronze medalist in individual men’s epee.
Soren has made many sacrifices for the sport of fencing, including deferring his college enrollment by one year and taking the 2003-2004 school year off in order to prepare for the 2000 and 2004 Olympic Games. Although he did not qualify for the Sydney Olympics, the training and competition experience played a significant role in preparing him for his eventual success at the international level. His 8th place finish in the World Championships in 2003 (a US record for men’s epee) helped cement his position on the 2004 Olympic Team roster. In Athens, Soren finished 7th (the best US Olympic finish in men’s epee since 1956). On his way to the final 8, he shocked the world by eliminating the top-ranked fencer in the world and favorite to win the gold medal, Alfredo Rota of Italy (see Soren’s best moment essay for a reprisal of this event in his own words). Soren’s current goal is to win a medal in the 2008 Olympics.
Soren is proud to have balanced his athletic pursuits with a successful academic career at Princeton University, where he earned Academic All-Ivy honors in 2005. His current plans include starting a business career while continuing to compete and train full-time. He will likely soon move to Kiev, Ukraine to take advantage of the emerging markets in Eastern Europe and the high caliber of Ukrainian fencing.
Many aspects of my training converged to put me in the ideal physical and psychological state. For several years I’d pursued an ambitious strength and conditioning program through the US Olympic Training Center in San Diego that had made me one of the strongest, fastest and most powerful athletes in my discipline. I had painstakingly micro-managed the incredible (though often conflicting) input of five coaches over the previous several seasons, a scheme that flew directly in the face of traditional fencing philosophy. And, perhaps most importantly, I’d lived and relived this moment so many times in my mind in the months leading up to the competition that my only anxiety was a positive sense of anticipation.
Almost immediately I settled into a comfortable feeling of intense focus. I was not surprised to experience many of the sensations described by elite athletes when they are competing at their very highest level, such as tunnel-vision, weightlessness and single-mindedness. I immediately took advantage by jumping out to a 5-0 lead. I knew this was just the beginning of a difficult match against a tough opponent. The next several minutes were very hard fought with each of us working hard to disrupt the other. I constantly entreated myself to get each touch and to stay ahead. Whatever happened, I wanted to keep him playing catch up. Rota showed much of his considerable skill by recovering from the early deficit to close the score. Meanwhile, I maintained a lead by staying focused and fighting hard. Towards the end of the final period I was leading just 13-11.
The final 30 seconds or so of the match are still quite vivid to me. Rota made a very intelligent strategic change and scored the next two touches to tie the score. Rather than allow time to run out and fence in a period of sudden death, I surprised him by forcing yet another action almost immediately. As I suspected, he tried a similar action for the third time in a row! This time I was ready and scored. Now I was ahead with only a few seconds left. He rushed forward, but I saw his actions so clearly they seemed to be in slow motion leaving me an opening to score the fifteenth and final touch. I had a amazing feeling of intense focus, deep satisfaction and pure joy after simultaneously winning perhaps the best bout of my life and reaching my lifelong goal of Olympic excellence.