Sunday, April 21, 2013

Utena Tenjou a guiding force to Madoka fencing

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Utena Tenjou a guiding force to Madoka fencing

By Josh Jones-Carswell
The Daily Magi
November 11, 2036

The story of Utena Tenjou becoming the head coach of the Mitakihara men's and women's fencing teams began after Utena mysteriously vanished from Ohtori Academy of Tokyo, Japan in 1997. It was found out that Utena had taken a plane to seek a new future in Canada, upset and frustrated with the pace of life in Japan. She was somehow able to finish her units at a preparatory school in Massachusetts before earning a bachelor's degree in the Classics from Harvard University, lettering all four years on the women's fencing team. Once she graduated from the university, Anthy Himemiya, who had also earned a degree from UCLA while searching for Utena, reunited with her at Harvard Square and they filed the papers to become a lawfully wedded couple.

Now together for good, the two of them moved to Vancouver in 2002 and lived a life outside of the public eye. Utena taught literature at a local secondary school in nearby Langley while Anthy worked at a local nursery and a flower shop in downtown Vancouver. Utena also worked with local fencers at Vancouver's LaSalle Fencing Studio and was a mentor to at least 20 or 30 current and former Olympians.

Eight years later, and after gaining Canadian citizenship, Utena received a phone call from a university in Mitakihara Town, British Columbia. It was Sayaka Miki, then the athletic director for the then-new athletic department for Mitakihara University.

"I got the call from Ms. Miki, and she asked if I could come down for an interview to be the coach of the fencing teams," Utena said in an interview from her office at the Urobuchi Fieldhouse prior to their duel with North Carolina. "I said, sure. So I took the ferry across the channel, and I was amazed by this new university that was starting up, and how there were new buildings being constructed. Anthy wanted to tag along and see the university herself.

"I told Ms. Miki about the plans I have if I am named coach of the teams, and my long-term vision of the fencing program at Madoka. After the interview was over, Ms. Miki tells me, no more searching is necessary; you're hired. I was a bit stunned that they made the decision that sudden but knowing what I went through many years ago, I figured it was all for the best.

"Then I wasted no time in gathering up recruits from all corners of the world. The first men's and women's fencing team at Mitakihara comprised of fencers from Canada, the USA, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom, Japan and Korea. They were very talented, and the practice sessions were intense, demanding and high-spirited.

"I am a coach that demands self-improvement and a commitment to perfect the art because fencing is an art, period. The sport must be played with respect and honor, while at the same time, played with nerves of steel and ice waters coursing through your veins. Our first year, the men finished 13-6 while the women were 14-5 and we ended up progressing far in the NCAA tournament.

"Over the time I have been the coach, we have won 10 NCAA Championships and have 180 All-Americans and 130 Academic All-Americans to our credit. The fencing teams compete as NCAA Division I Independents but starting in 2040, they will be full members of the Intercollegiate Fencing Association. I don't know if I will still be coaching the teams by then, but I am looking forward to the transition. It's better than having to face UC San Diego every year. We have a rivalry trophy with them: the Revolution Cup. So far, we've defending the Cup the last seven years but there was a stretch of five years where the Tritons took home the prize."

Thanks to Madocoit, Utena and Anthy do have a daughter, Athena Tenjou, who is a junior at Mitakihara High School and is planning to enroll at Madoka to join the women's fencing team.

"I'm gonna have to coach my daughter in two years; might be an awkward moment," said Utena, who is fluent in English, French and Japanese. "But I think my daughter is going to be the best fencer this university has ever seen. And you know why? Because I can't think of any better place to start a career as a fencer than Mitakihara University, where only the world's best come to play and learn."

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Mitakihara Magi fencing head coach Utena Tenjou (left) and her wife, Anthy Himemiya.

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