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Meet the athletes: Fencing

Jul. 25, 2012 - 02:15PM   |   Last Updated: Jul. 25, 2012 - 02:15PM  |  
Air Force Reserve Capt. Seth Kelsey trains at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo.
Air Force Reserve Capt. Seth Kelsey trains at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. (Jon R. Anderson / Staff)
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Air Force Reserve force support officer
310th Force Support Squadron, Buckley Air Force Base, Colo.
Hometown: Brush Prairie, Wash.
Age 29
Epee fencing
Competes Aug. 1

Capt. Seth Kelsey

The only Air Force athlete bound for the Olympics this year is also the only officer in the U.S. military contingent.

Air Force Reserve Capt. Seth Kelsey's event combines the one-on-one strategy of chess with the rapid-fire tactics of hand-to-hand combat. Among the three Olympic fencing styles, the U.S. has medaled in epee only twice before, with Navy officer George Calnan clinching bronze medals in 1928 and 1932.

Kelsey secured his first trip to the Olympics as a newly minted second lieutenant eight years ago, shortly after graduating from the Air Force Academy. Now set to become a three-time Olympian, Kelsey finished 17th in the 2008 Summer Games. Not bad, as they say, for an American. But it's been his performance in more recent events that has the Europeans sweating.

Kelsey's U.S. men's epee team was the first ever to earn a medal silver at the Senior World Cup Championships in 2010. In April, his squad did the unthinkable, fighting its way to the top spot on the podium and defeating the French defenders of the Olympic gold at the Fencing World Championships in Ukraine.

With wins like that, Kelsey is disappointed that U.S. epee fencing will not have a team event at this year's games but said he's still eager to compete as an individual. He parries any questions on his prospects, however.

"I'm really just focused on that first bout," he said. "I think sometimes you can get distracted by the end goal. If you start worrying about where you want to finish, then you're not as fully engaged in the moment."

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