The Fencing Center of San Jose, CA, was the brainchild of a group of fencers from Michael D’Asaro’s program at San José State University who enlisted the help of a group of interested adults and parents in the endeavor to create a viable club in the heart of the Silicon Valley. The story of the club is for another time. What I’ve corralled below is a selection of photos from the first National tournament sponsored by TFC and held at the first permanent home of the club at 10 Notre Dame Avenue in downtown San José.
The club was located in the former home of the San José Mercury News and most of the walls were half glass. You could almost see from one end of the club to the other through the walls and it was easy to imagine the past history of the place, with some cigar-chewing editor spotting a nervous op-ed writer through the glass and shouting for them to get-into-his-office-on-the-double. The 1983 D’Asaro Women’s Foil was one of four national circuit events held during the season at different venues prior to the national championships in the early summer. Preliminary rounds were fought at San José State until the final 8 were decided, then the finals were moved to the club for an evening gala.
The poster for the event.
With the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics just over a year away, the stakes had already begun to heat up as the top women fencers began to see who would come on strong for the Olympic run the following season. The Canadians were also to be reckoned with, and two, Poirier and Ducharme, made the finals of this event. Here are the finalists after all were announced:
L-R: Andrea Metkus, Connie Louie-Handleman, Margo Miller, Jana Angelakis, Jacynthe Poirier, Joy Ellingson, Isabelle Ducharme and Vinnie Bradford.
Before the finals though, a quick demonstration of the rules of ‘right of way’ for foil fencing took place. To perform the demo, a pair of young fencers from the Fencing Center classes took the stage.
Jennie Posthumus and friend.
After the demonstration, the finalists get ready.
Joy Ellingson, Vinnie Bradford
Unfortunately, I don’t have the seeding for the finals, so I’m not sure of the order of the first four bouts. However, based on the final placement, which I do have, I can at least identify who the first four matchups were.
Isabelle Ducharme from Canada faces 3-time US National Champion Jana Angelakis.
Joy Ellingson shouts after a touch against Connie Louie-Handleman as a young Marty Yu keeps track of the score.
Margo Miller on the march while Andrea Metkus sets a trap.
The second Canadian finalist, Jacynthe Poirier, faces Vinnie Bradford
The next two matches pitted the winners of the above against one another to see who would fence in the gold medal match.
Andrea Metkus and Jana Angelakis at close distance, while Marty Yu and announcer Peter Burchard await the result.
Joy Ellingson attempts to parry a riposte as Vinnie Bradford moves in.
Jana and Joy move on to the gold medal match, but this was back in the day. In today’s tournaments, if you lose the match that would put you into the gold medal round, you get a bronze medal and you’re done for the day. Back then, to get a bronze medal – you had to fence for it.
Vinnie Bradford faces Andrea Metkus in the bronze medal match as the crowd looks on.
For the gold medal match, Joy faces Jana, and not for the first time. These two had been having some epic battles since they were both junior competitors. West Coast versus East Coast!
Jana Angelakis and Joy Ellingson in the gold medal match.
Joy celebrates the final touch.
Joy always seemed strongest in front of her home crowd, and she took the victory on this day.
A happy Joy getting congrats from housemate Laurel Clark.
The finalists in order of place: Ducharme, Miller, Poirier, Louie-Handleman, Bradford, Metkus, Angelakis and Ellingson. Michael D’Asaro, the tournament namesake, at the far right, is about to present Joy with a bouquet of roses. I think Jana is asking Joy if she has any ideas on how to get the redwood burl clock home in her fencing bag.
Not long after this event, The Fencing Center relocated to the building they would be in for the next several years at 40 North First Street. You wouldn’t really recognize the area anymore if you only knew it from this period. The influx of money from the boom days of the Silicon Valley remade the city’s landscape. The building where this tournament was held is long gone in favor of a steel and glass office and the home of the San José Sharks is just a couple of blocks over.