Record-breaking young fencer edges out competitors to become national champ

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published August 10, 2021

 At only 13, fencer Jeidus DeSeranno, of Grosse Pointe Shores, is already being seen as an Olympic hopeful.

At only 13, fencer Jeidus DeSeranno, of Grosse Pointe Shores, is already being seen as an Olympic hopeful.

Photo provided by the DeSeranno family and Renaissance Fencing Club

 Although they occasionally compete against each other — as was the case during the summer nationals in Philadelphia this year — fencers Luao Yang and Jeidus DeSeranno are good friends and teammates who are more likely to be cheering on one another.

Although they occasionally compete against each other — as was the case during the summer nationals in Philadelphia this year — fencers Luao Yang and Jeidus DeSeranno are good friends and teammates who are more likely to be cheering on one another.

Photo provided by the DeSeranno family and Renaissance Fencing Club

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GROSSE POINTE SHORES — A couple of American fencers were among those taking home medals in the recently completed Summer Olympics in Tokyo. In just a few years, a Grosse Pointe Shores teen might be competing for a medal himself.

At just 13, Jeidus DeSeranno, of Grosse Pointe Shores, is already making a name for himself.

Ann Marsh-Senic is a three-time Olympian and the business manager at Renaissance Fencing Club in Troy, where Jeidus trains. She said by email that Jeidus “is not only the 2021 national champion in Y12 and Y14 men’s foil, but he is also the youngest fencer on the under-17 national point standings and is ranked third.” His teammate and friend, Luao Yang, 13, of Bloomfield Hills, is the second-youngest on the under-17 point standings, and Yang is ranked 19th on that list, Marsh-Senic said.

Jeidus and Yang, who are only a month apart in age, both started fencing at around the same time, and Jeidus said that while they compete against each other at times, there are “no hard feelings no matter how it goes.” As soon as they step off the piste — the marked strip on which fencers face off — they’re back to cheering each other on.

“The fact that we’ve known each other and train together has made us both better than we would have been otherwise,” Jeidus said.

Jeidus and Yang both use the foil, which is one type of sword used in fencing; others include the epee and the saber.

Dad Don Joseph DeSeranno said his son is “the youngest person to do almost anything in fencing,” including achieving an A rating — the highest possible competitive status — at age 11. The youngest person prior to Jeidus to reach an A rating was 13, DeSeranno said.

“He’s extraordinary,” DeSeranno said of Jeidus. “The assumption in the fencing world is that he’s a future Olympian. … It’s just a matter of which Olympics.”

Jeidus, who — like his younger siblings — is home-schooled, trains in fencing for six hours a day. He loves it.

“It may seem a tad intense at times, but it is the most fun thing you can do,” Jeidus said.

For a smart and curious youth, the intellectual aspects of the sport have great appeal.

“It’s very physical, but it’s so much of a strategy game,” Jeidus said. “You don’t have to be the fittest guy in the room. You can win off of strategy and mind games.”

Jeidus is the oldest of five siblings; he has two younger brothers and two younger sisters, and a sixth sibling was on the way at press time. DeSeranno said his son’s name contains an anagram of “Jedi.”

“We’re ‘Star Wars’ fans here,” DeSeranno said. “We had all of the lightsabers when he was 3 and 4 (years old).”

Besides watching “Star Wars” repeatedly, Jeidus said his favorite book as a child was “The Three Musketeers.” He said he’s been “an avid reader” since he was very young.

“I started thinking of everything as a sword,” Jeidus said. “I did get started in hockey like my dad, but I would hit people with the stick like it was a sword. I got a lot of sticking penalties.”

His parents realized they needed to find another outlet for their son’s athletic interests. It was Jeidus who stumbled across the perfect option.

“As soon as I saw Olympic fencing, my eyes went wide,” said Jeidus, who started to take fencing lessons when he was 8 years old.

Fencing has since become a family affair for the DeSerannos: Jeidus’ sister, Seren, 11, just won the state fencing championship for Y10 and Y12, and brother, Leander, 8, won second place in the state championship for Y10, their dad said.

“It’s been a great culture, and we’ve met so many great people and gone to so many great places,” said DeSeranno, whose family has traveled the world for fencing tournaments.

His A rating means that Jeidus can and does compete against more experienced fellow fencers, who tend to be older and larger.

“When they’ve got 6 inches (of height) and 80 pounds on you, it can be intimidating,” Jeidus said.

But his youth might also be his secret weapon.

“They’re intimidated to fence him because they don’t want to lose to a 13-year-old,” DeSeranno said.

Although Olympians have beaten Jeidus, “it’s a battle” for them, DeSeranno said.

Unlike gymnastics and many other Olympic sports, where the best competitors are very young, DeSeranno said Olympic fencers are usually in their late 20s.

“They call it chess with puncture wounds,” DeSeranno said. “It’s a thinking man’s sport.”

At age 9, Jeidus competed in the age 12 and under category at the Chinese National Championships and won; DeSeranno said his son was the only non-Chinese student there.

Between fencing and school, Jeidus’ schedule might seem too full for anything else, but that’s not the case. Besides reading, he said he has also recently picked up drums and guitar, and he likes acting and basketball.

Jeidus is currently trying to make the international cadet travel team for the 2021 to 2022 season, which would put him closer to making the USA Cadet World Championship Team in 2022. To do that, he needs to earn enough points at upcoming tournaments. His ultimate goal is to win a world championship. DeSeranno explained that world championships are held annually, but every four years, the world championship competition is the Olympics. The next Summer Olympics is in 2024 in Paris, followed by 2028 in Los Angeles. The 2021 Summer Olympics in Tokyo was originally supposed to take place last year but had to be postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s very rare for any fencer (age) 20 and under to be an Olympian,” DeSeranno said. “For (Jeidus) to make it to (the 2024) team would break all records (because Jeidus would only be 16). The youngest ever Olympian (in fencing) before was 18.”

Eventually, Jeidus hopes to earn a fencing scholarship to an Ivy League university.

“Fencing scholarships are a big part of the reason many families begin fencing,” Jeidus said.

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