Young Portlander hopes to be the next Zagunis

Young Portlander hopes to be the next Zagunis

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by KGW Sports Reporter Michael Berk

kgw.com

Posted on March 12, 2013 at 4:26 PM

Updated Wednesday, Mar 13 at 8:22 AM

BEAVERTON, OR -- Mary Bennett had just turned 12 when she decided her family should move from Southern California to Portland.

"When I heard of OFA, I thought Mariel Zagunis," she said of the two-time Olympic gold medalist who came from Beaverton's famed Oregon Fencing Alliance. "So I thought the coach must be incredible to produce this type of Olympian."

Yes, Ed Korfanty is pretty good at coaching fencing. He is, after all, the U.S National team coach, and Zagunis carried the American flag in London's Olympic Stadium last summer to kick off the summer games.

Barnett has a strong passion for fencing, and wants to do it at the highest level. So leaving behind three of her fencing friends in California, or three of the Musketeers as they were called, was part of the deal.

"Oh, you know about them?" she said with a surprised tone. "I do miss my friends from the old club."

But that's her old life now. Her new life consists of school work at dawn, fitness work at OFA during the mid-morning hours, more school work and then fencing work in the early evening.

It doesn't leave much time for a kid to be a kid, but this is no ordinary kid. But only her sabre fencing sword may be sharper than her focus and determination.

Barnett would like to attend Harvard University on a scholarship, and the Olympic games would also be a nice reward.

OFA's resident Olympian can see it happening.

"The potential is there for all of these young fencers," said Zagunis. "They motivate me because I don't ever want to get beat by them!"

Not likely. Not yet anyway.

"I love to fence against her," Barnett said. "It's always a humbling experience."

No more humbling than leaving behind a childhood to focus on the future.

"I'm sure that decision was very difficult," Zagunis said of Barnett's choice, "But hopefully, it'll be worth it."

For Mary Barnett, it already has been.

"I wake up every morning, and I'm happy. I come here and do what I love," she said.

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