Fencing champ: An Interview with Olympic Bronze Medalist Kelley Hurley

Olympic Bronze Medalist and 2013 National Champion Kelley Hurley is attempting to qualify for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games…but not in fencing. Photo: Kelley celebrates an Olympic bronze win with the rest of Team USA Photo: Fencing.net

WASHINGTON, April 29, 2013 — In the last decade, the Hurley sisters (Kelley and Courtney) have become synonymous with the success of US Women’s Epee. Beginning in their teens, both sisters took turns winning North American Cup after North American Cup, National Championship after National Championship. Kelley was the recent victor at the 2013 Summer National Championship in Richmond, Va., putting on a dominant performance en route to a gold medal.

This past summer, Kelley and her sister shared the experience of representing the United States in the London Olympic Games, where they captured a bronze medal in a thrilling sudden death overtime victory over Russia. Both sisters are in their early twenties with a wealth of success behind them and plenty of opportunities to improve further with the Rio 2016 games down the road. We sat down with Kelley to discuss fencing, her relationship with Courtney, and her ambitions outside of fencing.

Damien Lehfeldt: During Courtney’s overtime touch against Russia for the bronze medal, you buried your head in your hands. Can you share with us the thoughts that were running through your head at that moment?

Kelley Hurley: I can’t watch my sister fence. It’s always been difficult for me, but I especially can’t watch her during an overtime touch in an Olympic match. I was just thinking, with my head buried in my hands that I hope she gets this touch because if she doesn’t, she will hate her life and everyone else. I wanted her to get that touch just for her happiness.

DL: You and Courtney have been at the top of US Women’s Epee for almost the last decade. What has it meant for you to share this journey with your sister?

KH: It’s something I have always shared with my sister, so it is all I know. I am recently beginning to appreciate our being together at the top for this long. It is really a different feeling to be up there and share the moment with your sister and the rest of your family. It’s hard to describe, but it makes me very happy.

The Fencing Coach with Kelley Hurley and USA Olympic Modern Pentathlete Suzanne Stettinius Photo: D. Lehfeldt


DL: As a follow-up to the last question: you and Courtney have squared off countless times in both national and international competition. Do you find it difficult to compete against your sibling or is just fun to you at this point?

KH: When I fence Courtney, it is like fencing a mirror. She knows every single one of my moves and I know hers. It is always a surprise who wins because it just depends on who is on that day.

DL: Talk to us about your memory of the first time you picked up a weapon.

KH: I remember that my dad gave me a sword and told me it was time for me to learn how to fence. My parents met in fencing, so it was bound to happen eventually.

DL: I understand your training regimen consists primarily of footwork due to your distance from a lot of the Texas clubs. Walk us through what a typical day of training looks like for you in as much detail as possible.

KH: A typical day of training for me is to wake up (not too early might I add!) and do an hour of footwork with my dad beside me, correcting me and giving me instruction. Then I run a few miles and sometimes swim when I am really training hard. In the evening, I will do another hour of footwork. It is very boring, but footwork is a big part of my game so I emphasize a lot of my training on the feet.

DL: It has been rumored that you are looking to enter into the world of Modern Pentathlon. Are these just rumors or could this become a reality?

KH: I am definitely looking into switching over to pentathlon. I have already started training for it. It just depends on how motivated I feel. I have gotten a little lazy lately so it won’t be easy. But with my dad there pushing me, I know I will put the work in.

DL: Your parents have clearly had an active role in both yours and Courtney’s many successes. As a high performance athlete, what advice can you give to parents to play a successful part in the fencing careers of their children?

KH: I don’t know how anybody does a sport at the level my sister and I do without the full support of their parents. My parents are 150% behind us and even ahead of us. I couldn’t imagine it any other way. My advice to other parents or kids is to really be involved in a sport. It brings everyone closer together.

DL: You’re in your mid-twenties and aren’t showing any signs of slowing down. Do you plan to go for the Olympic Games in Rio or are you thinking about taking a break?

KH: .I would love to take a break, but fencing has become my entire life. Taking a break from fencing would be like taking a break from life. That’s what it seems like these days. I hope to take a little break eventually, but with the momentum coming off of our team bronze in London and my recent gold medal at summer nationals, I hope to keep the fencing going. I am going to try for the Games in Rio, either in fencing or pentathlon. Of that, I’m sure.

DL: If you could go back in time 10 years and give yourself some advice about fencing (things you wish you could have done differently), what would you tell Kelley Hurley?

KH: I wouldn’t tell myself a thing because it all worked out perfectly. I would tell myself to just do what you do and don’t lose hope — it gets better.

DL: One thing a lot of your fans probably don’t know about you is your exceptional skills as an artist. How has your hobby of painting complemented your mental focus in fencing?

KH: Painting has helped me relax. Besides that, I am not sure what role it has played in my fencing career. I have always loved to draw and paint. It’s just another part of me. 

Keep up to date on every touch with Damien Lehfeldt, The Fencing Coach

Damien is a competitive fencer and volunteer assistant coach at DC Fencers Club in Silver Spring, Md. Damien was the coach of a London 2012 Olympic Athlete in Modern Pentathlon. He is an A-rated epeeist and was a member of the 2012 North American Cup Gold Medal Men’s Epee Team.



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Damien Lehfeldt

Damien is a fencing coach and competitor at the DC Fencers Club in Silver Spring, Maryland. He is the coach of a 2012 London Olympic athlete in Modern Pentathlon and a member of the gold medal team at the 2012 North American Cup. Damien has coached multiple national finalists and Junior Olympic medalists.

Damien is the owner of TheFencingCoach.com, a fencing blog designed to share training tips, leadership philosophies, and best practices in coaching. He is an “A” rated epeeist and foilist. 

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