Tomer Or: Searching for the perfect foil

Israeli fencing champ speaks to The Jerusalem Post about his Olympic hopes for Beijing.

Tomer Or 224.88 (photo credit: Asaf Shalev )
Tomer Or 224.88
(photo credit: Asaf Shalev )
There is an old saying that "fences make good neighbors". One has to wonder if the same thing would apply to fencers, being that they wield razor-sharp blades as part of their day-to-day life. Tomer Or, who, by the way, seems as if he would make a model neighbor, is one of 41 Israeli athletes who are traveling to Beijing next month to represent the country in Olympic competition. He is a world-class fencer specializing in an area of expertise known, at least in his world, as 'foil fighting'. As opposed to the 'epee' or 'sabre', different varieties of weapons used in Olympic fencing, Or employs the 'foil', which is a light thrusting swrod-like weapon. In this type of fencing, the valid target is restricted to the torso and double touches are not allowed. There is a complicated scoring system involved in the sport, whereby if you hit your opponent with any part of the foil other than the tip, it has no effect whatsoever - fencing continues uninterrupted. A touch on an off-target area stops the bout but does not score a point either. Following the announcement of the delegation to Beijing last week, the Olympic Committee of Israel has been holding events for the athletes to get to know each other. Or is feeling the excitement of representing Israel as part of the team. "This is a dream come true," he told the Jerusalem Post. "And one that took me a long time to achieve." While he expanded on how proud and happy he is to compete for Israel, he also said he hopes to be much more than just a participant. Humbly, and coming just short of saying his goal is to win gold, Or expressed, "I want an unbelievable and fun day." His journey to become one of Israel more promising chances seemed assured early in his career. At the age of 15, Or won a silver medal in the World Youth Fencing championships in which athletes as old as 20 are allowed to compete. When Or was a 20-year-old, he took first place prize in that same competition. Even in the much tougher adult league, he has faired well, rising to fifth in the international ranking for fencers. But he has had his share of challenges as well. In 2004, despite high hopes, Or did not qualify for the Olympics. Twenty-five at the time and possibly at the peak of his athletic career, he fell just short in a disappointing qualifying, and while he was upset at the time, Or does not look back on the missed opportunity but looks optimistically forward to Beijing. "I am 29 already and much more prepared," he exclaimed. "I learned a lot from the last time." Despite all his experience at the international level, he said is aware of how important this particular competition is. "I am not a child who is being tested for the first time, but still...only there I will comprehend the greatness of the moment." He started fencing when he was an eight-year-old child living in Haifa, and his talent revealed itself early. "[Fencing] was my passion, my true love so I continued with it," he gushed. Besides his abundance of talent in the sport, another reason Or did not switch to soccer, relegating fencing to the status of a hobby, was the supreme faith his coach instilled in him. "My coach is like a father; he is great friend and coach and I believe in his methods," he explained.