Local Olympian among fencing club’s trainees

By: Heidi Roman | Royal Oak Review | Published December 30, 2011

 Ann Marsh-Senic of Royal Oak has competed in fencing at three different Olympic Games.

Ann Marsh-Senic of Royal Oak has competed in fencing at three different Olympic Games.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes


TROY — It’s one of those sports a lot of people say they’d love to try someday, but most people never do.

Ann Marsh-Senic is one of the ones who actually did try it. And loved it.

Marsh-Senic has been fencing for 27 years, and in December won first place in Veteran Women’s Foil at the Kansas City North American Circuit event.

Impressive as it was, it wasn’t the Royal Oak resident’s greatest achievement in the sport. Marsh-Senic competed in the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona at age 21. She went on to compete in the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, and again in the 2000 games in Sydney, earning her medical degree somewhere in between.

“I think my biggest goal in my fencing career was to be the first American fencer to do well internationally,” said Marsh-Senic, who was ranked in the top 10 fencers in the world at one point. “If you would have told me I would have achieved it, I wouldn’t have believed it. So I feel very fortunate.”

She picked up her first foil when she attended Roeper School. She played a lot of other sports at the school, but fencing stuck with her because of the balance of mental and physical skill necessary to do well.

“Right away we started traveling for competition,” said Marsh-Senic, who grew up in Royal Oak. “Even my first year fencing, the nationals were in Manhattan.”

Now, Marsh-Senic’s career has taken her all over the world. She trained full time in New York at around the same time she was taking classes at the University of Manchester. Two days after the 1996 Olympics, she started medical school.

“A lot of things sort of fell into place at once,” Marsh-Senic said of her career.

She was able to train on a grant at a time when women’s fencing was not very popular in the United States. As more female competitions were added to the games, the sport started getting more publicity — and more competitive.

Fencing is also how she met her husband, Anatolie Senic. She surprised him by beating him in a bout, and it wasn’t too long before they started dating.

She now works as an emergency room physician, but trains often at Renaissance Fencing in Troy, where her husband coaches.

“We’ve been around for about 16 years now,” said Stanna Stoner, a business manager and coach at Renaissance Fencing. “We started out relatively small with two coaches and just a few students. All over the (United States), it’s gaining popularity. Just like in soccer, as we get more immigration in, fencing is becoming more popular because it’s very popular in Europe.”

Fencing was developed as a way to teach sword fighting during a time when it was common to challenge someone to a duel, Stoner said. Duels were often fought to first blood, but there were many deaths because people weren’t as skilled at sword fighting.

There are several different types of weapons used — an epee, foil or saber — but all fencing includes protective equipment that prevents injury.

“It’s exceptionally safe because of the equipment we wear,” Stoner said. “You’re very
well protected. The worst injury I’ve ever seen is a twisted ankle, and that was mine.”

At Renaissance Fencing, students range from very young to moderate to, well, former Olympians.

“You learn respect for your surroundings and respect for the people you’re fencing,” Stoner said. “Before you fence, you salute your opponent and salute the referee.”

Jimmy Hu, 16, has been fencing for about three years after giving it a try at summer camp.

“Beyond the sport itself, he’s gotten a lot more disciplined,” said Hu’s father, Garrick Hu. “He’s gained a lot of poise and confidence.”

Stoner said students are encouraged to compete in fencing if they choose, and Renaissance students performed “very, very well” at the national circuit event in Kansas City Dec. 9-11. The club sent nine fencers, and in addition to Marsh-Senic’s success, five others placed in the top 18 of their events. Mike Cho of Farmington Hills took first in the Veteran Men’s Foil event.

For those who want to check out fencing, a tournament is taking place from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Jan. 7 at Renaissance Fencing, and all are welcome to watch. Regular classes begin again in early January.

Renaissance Fencing is located at 408 Oliver St., north of Maple Road, in Troy. For more information, call (248) 930-0747 or email renfencing@earthlink.net.