Somewhere along the line, Andy Shaw, Headmaster, Dean and El Jefe of the Museum of American Fencing, acquired a digital file with headshots of all the Olympic fencers. Since Andy was kind enough to grant me access to the file (I’m on his Board of Directors), I thought I would compare some of the names listed in Nadi’s Record, Part Two, to see what some of these folks looked like when they weren’t getting skewered by Aldo Nadi.
So, before moving on to Part Three of Nadi’s 1964 letter to Hans Halberstadt, et al, here are some of the folks we heard about in Part Two:
The pupil referred to by Nadi in the last paragraph was Jan York-Romary, who was a dominant foil fencer and was indeed fourth at two consecutive Olympic Games. In addition, she was 10 times US National Champion and competed in 6 Olympic Games. She began her competitive career as a student of Ralph Faulkner.
In keeping with the above photos, let’s take a look at some of the players mentioned in this section of Nadi’s recounting, once again with Andy Shaw to thank:
It’s always easy to spot Guilio Gaudini in period photos of fencers. This two-weapon threat (foil & sabre) stood 6’7”, towering over spectators and competitors alike. Among his many achievements, he was individual foil gold medalist at the 1936 Olympics and two-time foil World Champion. Many other medals of all colors, individual and team, were won by this excellent fencer. Here’s one of my favorite photos of him, on the medal stand at the 1932 Olympics:
1932 Olympics, Men’s Foil: Joe Levis (USA) silver, Gustavo Marzi (ITA) gold, Giulio Gaudini (ITA) bronze
Gaudini, in the low position as the bronze medalist, is taller than Levis at one level up (even at this oblique angle, which makes Levis appear taller than reality), and almost as tall as Marzi on the top level. A big guy who made big results.
Next: Aldo Nadi’s Record, Part Four. The final installment, where Aldo Nadi provides the reader with numerous quotes from other writers to confirm his greatness!
Part Three Transcript:
During my last Parisian years, it was practically impossible for me to find opponents: the French Federation forbade its Champions to meet me officially. For example:
Champion of France and World Champion, Foil, refused to meet me in match, finally accepting, after much prodding, to meet me in an exhibition-match at the Hotel George V, Paris 1934. DUCRET, Olympic Champion 1924, directed the bout and at the end he said: “QUARANTE A ZERO!” A little exaggeration: the true result was about 30 touches against 3 or 4.
Champion of France, Foil, totally crushed at the inauguration of the NADI-LACAZE Fencing Academy. BONDOUX touched me in the center of my chest on his first attack and then scored no more.
Champion of France, Epee. I crushed him too, in epee, during a private bout arranged by GAUDIN in his own salle of the Automobile Club, Paris, 1928 or 1929. GAUDIN watched me like a hawk throughout the bout after which he decided to never again would he meet me in any weapon. The result against CORNIC was about 30 against 5 or 6. GAUDIN himself did not even change! He was terrified to meet me even in his own Salle. (He did the same thing years before in 1923, when I was first invited to the Automobile Club. On that occasion I fenced against LUCIEN MERIGNAC, the Club’s Master and GAUDIN’s teacher, in front of all the best Parisian fencers. And after the bout GAUDIN hurried to declare to anyone who would listen that I had beaten his Master 12-6…how nice… typical of GAUDIN! LUCIEN MERIGNAC was then 47 years old but still a very hard nut to crack and certainly not inferior to GAUDIN.) Had I been a little brighter and less intransigent on the strip I should have let CORNIC beat me by a few touches…my vanity cost me, as was said before, 50,000 francs.
THE PROFESSIONAL SABRE CHAMPION OF FRANCE, whose name I forget, my last Parisian appearance I believe, 1934, when NOBODY wanted to meet me anymore in the two favorite French weapons. This Master, a courageous Champion and unquestionably France’s best sabreman, was defeated with a result of about 30 touches against 5 or 6.
I thought I had defeated 14 Champions of France, but upon precise examination, there were 18, if one considers that a few of them I defeated in two weapons.
VICTORIES AGAINST WORLD CHAMPIONS AND OLYMPIC CHAMPIONS
Epee, 12-5. BUCHARD was Three Times WORLD Champion and Three Times Second in Three Olympic Games. Unquestionably on of the century’s three greatest swordsmen.
Twice Epee World Champion: Foil 10-4; Epee 10-6, Cannes 1925.
Olympic Champion Paris 1924 in Foil, Second in Epee and Second in Sabre – – UNIQUE AND UNEQUALLED RESULT. Epee 12-5. Crushed in foil many times in different Parisian Salles. He never dared meet me officially in either foil or sabre.
World Champion, Foil. Foil, crushed in exhibition; according to Olympic Champion DUCRET, Director of the bout, 40-0 (actually about 30 to 3 or 4) Paris 1933.
Foil World Champion. Foil, Paris 1934, 10-4.
Twice World Champion, Foil. ALWAYS easily beaten in foil in Italian and International tournaments; for example, Pre-Olympics contest, Venezia 1920, 5-1.
World Champion. Crushed for years every day in the Salle Nadi at Livorno.
Olympic Champion. Defeated two times out of three and then he refused to meet me again. I would NOT put GAUDIN amongst the three best fencers of the century: he had to participate in 3 Olympic Games in order to win 1, and how he won it! In foil, I am told in writing by his compatriot, World Champion GEORGES BUCHARD, and by Olympic Champion GUSTAVO MARZI, who were both present, that the Juries favored GAUDIN most disgracefully; and in epee I KNOW that GEORGES BUCHARD, in a moment of weakness, after that GAUDIN had begged him practically on his knees to let him win, threw the deciding bout to his old friend. (Nor, incidentally, would I put GAUDIN’s successor and compatriot, CHRISTIAN D’ORIOLA, very likely a better man than GAUDIN himself, among the century’s three greatest foilsmen. Because in spite of his unique record of victories in the most important contests in the world, he had also an extraordinary number of defeats – – far too many for a great champion. Among the many examples: once in the COPPA GAUDINI, he had 4 defeats in 6 bouts – – and no truly great fencer ever has such results. Besides, according to Olympic Champion GUSTAVO MARZI, and I quite believe him, his opponents were nothing to shout about.)
World and Olympic Champion. I defeated him in an exhibition-match at Cremona (1927?), 9-2. This scoring was identically reached by four very competent fencing Masters as well as by myself. A bout of incredible clarity. Absolutely impossible to score incorrectly. Besides, all touches were called loud voice (had to be, being so neat!). Taking off his mask, GAUDINI, who the previous day had won a particularly tough Italian Championship (with World Champion PULITI, no less, FIFTH!), looked as if he had lost the power of speech.
I was undefeated in any weapon in the last 12 years of my militant career.
In 1935, at 36 years of age, very far from my sunset as a fighter, I decided to come to America – – New York. After my first American exhibition at the Hotel Plaza, New York City, the New York press called me almost unanimously “the greatest fencer who every lived.” Favorable comparisons were made by some important New York newspapers with regard to NEDO NADI who had fenced in New York a few yeas before. I taught in New York for eight years. In 1943, after writing my treatise ON FENCING (Putnam’s, 1943, exhausted, praised in writing by GEORGE BERNARD SHAW), I was called by Paramount Pictures in Hollywood for one of their silly movies that needed a Fencing Master. I have remained in Los Angeles ever since teaching independently. For many yeas the best foilsmen in America west of New York have been and still are my pupils (I do not bother teaching epee or sabre if I can help it: to be decently good in one weapon is better than being bad in two); and the only American-born fencer of the two sexes who was ever able to reach TWO Olympic finals was my pupil. She was Fourth in Helsinki and Fourth in Melbourne.