After a stellar start to her collegiate fencing career, garnering Second Team All-America honors as a freshman and All-Northeast Region Second Team honors in epee as a sophomore, Karolina Nixon was first taken out of action by the pandemic and then suffered an injury that kept her off the strip last year. Now a senior, she has returned to action for Columbia University.
Growing up in Los Angeles, Nixon’s first sport was rhythmic gymnastics. The club where she trained shared space with fencing. She walked past fencing every day to get to gymnastics and felt the draw to try a new sport. Once she tried fencing, she was hooked.
“If you win, it’s your win, and if you lose, you can’t blame anybody but yourself,” said Nixon, who competes in epee. “I don’t think there are many situations in life when you get to be in an environment where it’s so clearly the result of your individual decisions and actions, and I found that really exhilarating and liberating.”
The travel that came from a young age was also appealing—meeting people and making friends all over the world. It made Nixon comfortable with making the move across the country for college. “I’m definitely a city girl, and I always wanted to be in or around New York for school,” she said. “There happened to be a great school in New York City with great fencing. The coach happened to be interested in me—thank you, Michael Aufrichtig. It was always my number one choice.”
Columbia did not compete during the 2020–21 school year, so she took a gap year, spending time in Poland visiting and doing some training. When Columbia fencing returned for 2021–22, Nixon was out with a shoulder injury, but did return to campus as team captain. She resumed serious training last summer.
Nixon appreciates the mind-body connection of fencing, where anticipation and reading an opponent is an integral part of success. “Fencing requires you to make decisions with incomplete information,” she said. “It’s a lot of on-the-spot game theories and doing your best with what you see. The best fencers are…able to tell nearly imperceptible differences between a real attack and a fake attack…and create that themselves…Working toward that I find really interesting.”
She said it’s amazing to be back in action. Her goal is to improve with each tournament. After graduation this spring, her focus will be on making the U.S. senior national team by 2024 in hopes of working toward the 2028 Olympics.
Columbia women went 5–0 in last weekend’s LIU Shark Showcase. Next up are the Ivy League Round Robin Championships, Feb. 11–12.