Although Ivan Lee had remained connected to the sport of fencing in the years since he stopped competing, the Brooklyn native had not held a coaching position prior to accepting the job as the head fencing coach at Long Island University (LIU) in 2019. Two years later, the program boasts three All-Americans and a National Champion.
“I love coaching. It’s very rewarding,” said Lee, an NYPD officer and instructor at the Police Academy. A graduate of St. John’s University, Lee credits his former coach, Yury Gelman, with giving him an understanding of fencing that translates to coaching.
“I love fencing and I have optimism,” said Lee, who served as fencing commissioner for the Public School Athletic League. “I’m still learning with a lot more to learn, but you enjoy the success and you try to build on it.”
At the NCAA National Championship last month freshman Laura Fekete captured first place in epeé and first team All-America honors. Freshmen Anna Szántay (foil) and Chejsa-Kaili Seck (sabre) earned third team All-America. Lee is pleased that LIU fencing is now clearly established on the national scene, which will aid in recruiting.
Both Lee and Seck, also a Brooklyn native, are graduates of the Peter Westbrook Foundation. Lee said the foundation trained people to become leaders and understand the values of leadership—discipline, commitment and focus. Seck, who grew up not far from the LIU campus, began fencing at age nine after seeing fencing and asking her mother for lessons. She was placed into sabre and decided to give it a try.
“I ended up loving it,” said Seck, who thrives on the growing diversity in fencing. “It makes me really happy. Coming from the Peter Westbrook Foundation and having so many athletes of color, being part of that is a really amazing experience.”
Being part of the LIU fencing team enabled Seck, a biology major, to feel really connected to the university despite the challenges of going to school during the pandemic. “Coming into college I was worried about being able to make friends,” she said. “Being on the fencing team made it easy. These are people I’m going to be spending the rest of my college days with. I loved the experience…I spent time practicing and spent time with my teammates.”
This summer, Seck hopes to have a job, hopefully in a research lab. She also expects to train and compete in fencing tournaments.