CARLSBAD — Fencing is a sport built on fast reflexes, timing and strategy all in the blink of an eye. And one Carlsbad teen has taken his passion and built a pathway for future in the centuries-old sport.
Jaden Callahan, 16, of Carlsbad, was recently named a first-team All-American and Academic All-American in the Cadet Men’s Sabre division (under 17) by USA Fencing.
But Callahan’s passion for the sport is driving him to new heights — the Olympics and World Cup.
“Fencing really is, unparallelled, my biggest passion I’ve ever had, and I want to keep going,” Callahan said. “You have to invest in it a lot, and I’m very fortunate I can do that.”
Callahan tried his hand at other sports, but about seven years ago stumbled onto the world of fencing, the sport with odd-looking helmets and lightning-quick strikes. He was instantly hooked.
As he’s grown in the sport, so too has his commitment and dedication. Callahan trains at the La Jolla Fencing Academy with Roman Sydorenko, a former member of the Ukrainian national team and silver medalist at the 2009 European Championships.
Sydorenko, a collegiate All-American at St. John’s University, said Callahan has a bright future in fencing. Sydorenko’s North County protégé is currently ranked third in his division and 23rd in the Junior Sabre division (under 19).
“If we are talking about his professional growth, then he definitely got stronger physically and technically,” the coach said. “The most important aspect of his improvement is the mental toughness that he was able to build up over the past couple of years. But there is still a lot of work to do since we want to achieve bigger goals.”
Callahan, who holds a 4.4 GPA at The Grauer School in Encinitas, said the sport requires commitment as the competitions are spread across the state and country.
The combination of athleticism and real-time strategy attracted him to the sport. Also known as physical chess, Callahan explained, noting how much thinking is required before, during and after each bout. Throw in the physical demands of the sport and it is the perfect mix for him.
Now, he has his sights set on climbing the national ladder in hopes of earning a college scholarship and, eventually, entering international sabre competitions.
“I really don’t see a stopping point,” Callahan said. “I want to get into a good college to compete in the NCAAs and eventually get to the World Cup and even Olympic level. I have all the motivation in the world to keep going.”