Image Credits: @jasminekaur
Just 18 years of age, young fencer Jasmine Kaur is still developing at an impressive rate, and looks like she is only going to get better.
To the uninitiated, the sport of fencing can be hard to follow. The blade moves impossibly fast, the point seems to disappear against the stark white uniforms and the scoring can be downright mystifying.
Jamine Kaur is an 18-year-old professional fencer from Punjab. For someone so young, yet so dedicated to her profession, it’s hard to see anything other than Jasmine becoming a success in the sport that has changed her life.
Born and raised in Amristar, Punjab, Jasmine has always enjoyed the thrill and excitement of sports. Started fencing seven years ago, Jasmine quickly fell in love with all aspects of fencing so much, forming it as a career she has today.
Not only content with competing in fencing, she also has tested her skills by dancing to gain invaluable experience.
It would be through fencing where she would get her first taste of combat sports and a taste of success as well, capturing the Cadet National Gwalior individual bronze and team gold, All India Inter- University Gold and Khelo India University Games gold.
Jasmine tasted success in both individual and team events at the State level on a consistent basis. Her consistency saw her represent the country at the Asian fencing championship in Korat, Thailand and World Fencing Championship held at Verona, Italy.
She also won gold in Junior Nationals at Rudrapur, Uttarakhand and Junior National in Bangalore, and gold in Under 23 National Tirunelveli, Tamil Nadu. She has participated in School Nationals held twice in Solapur (Maharashtra) and won gold in both the nationals, gold in School Nationals in Amritsar, Punjab, silver in Nalgonda, Telangana, participated in School Nationals Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh.
And recently, she secured an individual bronze in U-23 state, team gold in senior state and was in top-5 at the senior state individual.
Jasmine, who is currently studying medicine at Guru Nanak Dev University has all the attributes to be an excellent fencer. If she can bring her decision-making and mental aptitude up to the same level, we will see her performing regularly at the highest level.
The Punjab native is athletic, quick and agile who utilizes any and every opportunity to move forward into the opponent’s side. She has a good eye and she anticipates the opponent’s attack shrewdly, and is able to get overcome it.
Just 18 years of age, the young fencer is still developing at an impressive rate, and looks like she is only going to get better.
I'm sure lots and lots of hours of deliberate practice have gone into becoming what you’re today. How do you define your fencing journey till now?
My sports journey as an athlete started at a very young age but my fencing journey started when I was in seventh grade. Sports has been a part of my life from a very young age. It has been the only thing that I have carried along with me for a very long time and have played such an important role in my life, on and off the field.
When I started fencing, I didn’t know what it takes and what it means to work towards a goal. Fencing is harder to pick up and start doing than many other sports. While you can pick up a ball and (more or less) start shooting baskets, learning the basic movements required to fence against another beginner can take a lot of practice.
My ‘fencing for fun’ phase was very short. I practised every day and then through fencing, I started participating in competitions and won medals since then fencing had become a part of my life. Being a medical student, it used to get hard to cope with everything. I didn't have time to practice for competitions because of my classes. It was like every time we take one step forward; we take another step backwards. But still, I decided to keep going.
How long you have been fencing? What attracted you to fencing and how much time and efforts do you invest in fencing?
It has been seven years since I started fencing. It was so different, so apart from everything I had ever confronted. I chose to fence because it wasn’t like any other sport and I had never heard about it until the day I saw a few students from school doing the basic footwork. After that, I tried fencing, enjoyed it, started training at my school only. We didn't have the equipment or the electrical apparatus but I was so much fascinated by the sport that I didn't stop after that.
This is the one sport where size doesn’t matter, only skill. I have seen fencers win competitions against opponents twice their size because they had the skill and talent to do so. It is an amazing thing! This is one of the few sports that evens the playing field between size, age, sexes, ethnicity and personality. I can’t think of another sport that even comes close to doing that.
Who was a key mentor or coach that helped you in the early days? Why was their support so important for your success?
My coach had always seen not what we were, but what we could become. His name is Rajinder Singh and he shifted to the United States two years ago. His hard work and dedication have inspired me to become more than I ever dreamed I could. He kept pushing me to my limits and beyond have inspired me to become not just a better athlete, but a better person as well. He gave me the encouragement I needed to believe in myself. Even If he wouldn't say a word when I fenced, his presence in the fencing hall would give me so much confidence. But now it is just me and my siblings at school training together.
We all know that you are successful in your sport. But the first win and the first medal is always special. Do you remember your 1st success as fencer? If yes, how will you describe that moment?
If I would have to pick out instances wherein sport had a profound effect on my life, it would be when I got selected for the World Championship in Italy and Asian Fencing Championship in Thailand. I never got selected for international competition before that and you can’t imagine the excitement when I received my medal. Though it was a bronze medal, could have performed better but it was my first and that is what matters. We have been training and practising for that moment and when we finally do it, the feeling is unreal. It was a very, very special. The funny thing is I just called my mom after that started crying and she couldn’t figure out what exactly happened until my father told her all about it, to feel like that once in a while, even if it's only once in a few years there's nothing like it.
Has practising fencing benefited you in everyday life as well?
Yes, practising fencing benefited me in everyday life as well. It had helped me in many ways. In sports, a person has to make quick decisions depending upon the situation that he/she is in. Thus, a person who is involved in sports can make wise and quick decisions in other areas of life as well. When something is improving your health, making you physically fitter, earning you respect among people and generally making you feel better about yourself, it is safe to say that such a thing does a whole world of good to your self-confidence. And fencing fulfils this criterion.
Fencing gives us exposure to many different types of personalities and experiences they might not have otherwise faced. But most importantly, I am thankful for the family that fencing gave me who help me wherever and whenever I need them.
With her favourite Indian fencer Karan Singh
Who was your role model growing up and how did they influence the way you play on the court?
Both my father and mother has always been an inspiration to me. While growing up, I saw my father training his students at school because he was an athletics coach. I have always looked up to him. Being with a family having high values, manners etc teaches us and inspires us to become good humans in future. My father is the one who has always been there with me. He travels with me no matter where my competition is even If it is a state tournament or a national tournament, he has always been there to cheer me up. He inspires me to be a better person.
My mother too, looked after me and supported me in every part of my life. Right from childhood, she has been with me like my shadow. It had been riddled with hurdles and difficulties, but she has managed to cross them all too because of the amazing person she is. She sets an inspirational example to me teaching me how to live life and make wise choices, even in the most uncertain situations. I respect her a lot. She is my inspiration, my role model.
Fencing is a sport which requires extreme concentration and focus. if you lose even 0.01% of it, you miss the target. how do you manage to maintain both under pressure situations?
I have been very bad at the break-through moments in mental toughness, confidence, stress management. There are so many thoughts that cross my mind about my matches. If I don't perform well at competition; if I am not able to concentrate or have so much going on in my mind, I just try to calm myself and talk to my teammates and friends because making some changes can help. Also, I always have to listen to music. I always make sure I have a cool playlist on my phone and I keep listening to it. But it has to be fast music because slow music makes me sleepy and I think about the things that I don’t need to think about.
Your favourite venue and/or group to train with?
My favourite venue would be Junior and Cadet Fencing World Championships 2018 in Verona, Italy, at the City’s Cattolica Center. It was huge and beautiful. I like training with my friends and siblings this is what I have been doing for the past seven years. It is nice to have them around.
When a person is passionate for something, that thing is like a life for him. We all know that you are extremely passionate about fencer. What are your feelings when you take the equipment in your hands?
When I have my fencing sword in my hand there are just mixed emotions, especially in the competition hall. You think about your next match, your opponent, your mistakes and when you get on the piste what are the things that you need to be careful about but when you have that sensation of anxiety, it is the one that fencers feel acute because this is a combat sport that this is what I am still working on because If you carry on with negative emotions this is of course much more challenging.
Is it hard to get used to the equipment?
What else do you do? Is there something else that you do that you like to perfect outside of fencing?
I like dancing. Dancing is so much fun. It gives me peace, relaxes my mind. For me, it has always been dancing to the tunes of my favourite songs. I have also participated and won a few dance competitions in my school days.
How would you describe your fencing to someone who has never seen you fence? What are your greatest strengths as a fencer and what areas do you need to work on the most?
Fencing is a sport in which two competitors fight each other using very thin swords. The ends of the swords are covered and the competitors wear protective clothes so that they do not hurt each other. My strengths would be – I am very athletic, so, I have very good speed, stamina and strength.
In terms of the final stages of preparation, what will the last couple of days look like? And is there anything specific you’ll be doing to calm your mind and the nerves?
The last few days of the competition are pretty normal. The intensity of training goes on decreasing and we change our diet in such a way that there are more carb intakes in that and mentally I try to keep myself, not think about the result and just give my best.
Do you have a defining moment of your career? What's your best fencing memory?
My defining moment would be my medal at a National Championship and getting selected for the Asian Championship. I have seen many ups-and-downs and then there was a time, when I won an individual medal at the nationals and made it for the national team for the first time that so far has been the best moment.
And finally, I was just wondering, have you ever had any trouble in airports trying to bring swords on planes?
Yes, I face a lot of problems because most of the times the people on duty are not aware of what is aware of the sport and most of the times the staff tells us to open our kit bags to see what is inside. We need to tell them about fencing and show our invitations letters because otherwise, they might think it is dangerous.
Your favourite Indian fencer?
My favourite Indian fencer is Karan Singh
Your favourite foreign fencer?
My favourite foreign fencers are Olga Kharlan and Aron Szilagyi.
Which is the category or event you like to participate in the most?
I’m okay with both team and individual event. I try to give my best in both the events.
Favourite sports movie
My favourite sports movie is M.S. Dhoni: the untold story.
Choose one – foil, épée, and sabre?
Music preference before bout?
I like to listen to fast music and most of the time it is Punjabi songs.