Aug. 26, 2004
Former Notre Dame fencer Jan Viviani took a few moments away from the hustle and bustle in Athens, Greece, to answer some questions for und.com readers, as he wraps up his experience of attending and competing in the Olympic Games. Viviani - the only Notre Dame epeeist ever to be a four-year All-American and a senior leader of the 2003 national championship team - recently competed with the U.S. men's epee team and had three solid bouts vs. top fencers from the Ukranian squad (posting a 2-0 win and a pair of one-touch losses). The men's epee team finished sixth, the top U.S. finish in that event since 1956 and part of an historic showing by the entire U.S. fencing team (including the gold medal won by incoming Notre Dame freshman sabre Mariel Zagunis).
Viviani's responses to und.com's questions follow below (look for some final diary and Q&A entries from other Olympians with Notre Dame ties in the next few days):
Q: Walk us through the 15 months since you graduated from Notre Dame, in your quest to make the Olympic team.
A: After graduating, I started competing in world cups that qualified our team for the Olympics. I traveled to France, Sweden, Cuba and Puerto Rico. After the last competitions in July, I took six weeks off from fencing and took a couple summer jobs so that I would be able to pay for my training during the 2004 season.
I started training again in the beginning of September. I worked out at the U.S. Athletic Training Center in New York City every morning during the week. They helped me get faster and stronger. It was an important part of the training to get me ready for the qualifying events, starting in December and January. Each night there was practice at the New York Athletic Club. It was great to be able to take the year off and have the time to train full-time.
The competitive season started in December and ended the last weekend in March. I traveled to L.A., San Jose, Atlanta, Estonia, Slovakia, Hungary, Switzerland, France, and ended the season with the last qualifying event in Vancouver.
Since qualifying, the team has been training together at camps in the U.S. and in Europe.
Q: What have been the overall highlights of your Olympic experience, both as an athlete and just as a spectator.
A: Being able to compete was a great experience. It has been the dream goal all of my life and to achieve that was satifying. Going to other events and seeing how much the other athletes are putting into their sports also helps me see what the games are all about.
Q: What are your thoughts on watching the medal-winning performances in women's sabre, particularly Mariel Zagunis' run to the gold.
A: I was very happy for Mariel. All of the girls have been working very hard and they deserve their medals. The good results at the Olympics will also be great for the sport of fencing.
Q: Share with Notre Dame fencing fans what type of fencer the program is getting with the addition of Mariel.
A: Mariel will help the team get back to the top at the NCAA championships. I think she will enjoy her experience at ND.
Q: You had the thrill of competing in the final men's epee team bouts and fared quite well against some tough Ukranian opponents. Tell us about that experience.
A: I was happy with my performance. I wanted to have a positive experience when I was able to fence. It was good for me to leave feeling I competed with some of the best on the biggest stage and did well.
Q: Give us your take on the tremendous growth of U.S. Fencing in the
past few years.
A: It's am amazing group of young athletes serious about the sport. The coaches in the U.S. are good and the athletes are training very seriously. Everyone on the team took at least this year of to train and compete.
Q: What are your thoughts as you look back on your Notre Dame career in general and the great 2003 ntional championship season in particular.
A: The four years on the team at Notre Dame were great. The best part about it was the people I met on the team. Being able to finish out our careers with a national championship was amazing for all of us.
Q: What is in the future for you?
A: I am planning on living in New York. I am going to try to get a job that is flexible so I can keep up with my training. This was a great experience and I would like to do it again.