Lewis Weiss

Sport: Fencing

Age: 23

Year: Senior

Hometown: Houston

Major: International Studies


Question: Let’s start with the serious stuff. How did Hurricane Harvey affect your family back in Houston?

Answer: My family was extremely lucky. My dad kept calling to tell me that the flood waters were going to come into the house and we were preparing for the worst. But at the last minute the water started to recede. I’m very thankful for this. However, my coach in Houston, Andrey Geva, had his house flood because of Harvey and it has been stressful for him and his family to recover.

Q: Have you been back since the hurricane?

A: Yes, over Thanksgiving break. I saw many homes with what used to be their flooring and walls torn up and placed outside in their front yards stacked in trash piles. One thing that really shocked me was that the grocery store that had been in my neighborhood since I could remember is vacant now. Needless to say, the storm hit a lot of places hard, but Houston seems to be recovering all right. The Astros winning the World Series definitely helped boost everybody’s spirits!

Q: On a scale of 1 to 10, how much do you suppose your average Texan knows about fencing?

A: You would be surprised. I’d say a 5. A lot of people in Texas know what fencing is now thanks to our amazing Olympic athletes. Usually when I talk to people in Texas about fencing they always tell me that they loved watching it in the Olympics. It means the popularity of our sport is growing through the Olympic platform.

Q: Is there a way to quickly educate non-fencing people about what you do?

A: Absolutely! There are three different weapons — foil, epee and saber. I fence epee. Each weapon has its own specific rules that make each weapon unique, but basically the goal for all the weapons is to hit your opponent first while not getting hit. Fencing is like playing chess with a weapon. You have to lead your opponent into traps and make them react in ways you want in order to score points. First to score 15 points in elimination matches wins.

Q: When did you start attending your fencing school, Alliance Academy? How much has that place grown since you started?

A: When I first started attending Alliance, 10 years ago it was a relatively small academy. We had only eight strips (fencer’s playing field, 46 feet long; think castle hallway), one of which was always taken up for private lessons. The club had a decent but small number of members. However, Andrey, Alliance’s head coach and owner, was determined to grow the club so along with his team of coaches, Andrey took a bunch of seemingly unathletic and untalented kids like myself and produced them into NCAA champions, World Cup winners, world and national champions. It was our coaches’ drive and belief in us that helped push my teammates and me to strive for high-level results. It was that same drive that grew our club from a small club in Texas to one of the largest and most successful epee clubs in the country, boasting around 300 members and two locations in Houston and The Woodlands.

Q: Have your four younger siblings — Maxwell, Sophie, Miles and Talia — contributed to that growth?

A: My siblings have always been supportive of my fencing. Their support is incredibly important to me because setting an example for them drives me to improve. However, it has not always been a walk in the park. My fencing and travel schedule has caused tension between my siblings and me in the past, but for now I think they are all just hoping for a trip to Tokyo in 2020 to watch me compete in the 2020 Olympics, fingers crossed. My two youngest siblings, Miles and Talia, are currently fencing in the under-14 division.

Q: When it’s all said and done, who will be the most talented Weiss with a blade?

A: That’s a difficult question. My brother Miles is already taller than me, he’s only 14! Miles has been progressing well and has been busy mastering the skills he will need to compete for a spot on the cadet (under-17) and junior (under-20) national teams. Miles has the potential to be a great fencer if he works consistently toward his goals and learns to control his emotions. I hope that we will be able to make an Olympic team together in the future. Maybe 2028 in Los Angeles? My sister Talia is also training for a berth at the cadet and junior national teams. Talia is a consistent fencer and I think that as she gains experience and confidence she will be able to achieve her goals in fencing and in life. As for who will be the family’s best fencer, I’ll let you know in 10 years. My bet is on my sister.

Q: In what other sports do the Weiss children participate?

A: We all tried soccer and basketball. My sister Sophie played competitive volleyball in middle and high school. I think she and Miles are the most naturally athletic of the Weiss kids. As for me, when I was around 6 or 7 I played in a youth basketball league, and once during a game I made a basket and even the opposing team's parents started cheering for me. I think that says everything about how good I was at other sports. Thankfully, I found fencing.

Q: Did your parents embrace swordsmanship, as well?

A: No. My parents support us but would rather watch us than try it themselves. Both my parents love the sport. My mom observes the other competitors and my dad analyzes the mental side of matches. Fortunately, my dad has been able to travel with me to a large number of junior and senior competitions and loves to watch the best fencers in the world compete.

Q: Your weapon is epee, which, if I remember correctly, is the heaviest discipline and also the one in which points can be scored with touches anywhere on the body. Have you always been epee?

A: Yes, since day 1, though for one season when I was in the youth divisions I tried foil. One of my first coaches told me recently that she knew on my first day of practice that I was made to be an epee fencer. I don’t know how good I would be at the other weapons, but I love to watch fencers with other weapons compete; there’s a lot one can learn from observing fencers who excel at what they do.

Q: I saw an article that compared saber with Formula 1 racing. By that analogy, does epee equal NASCAR?

A: That’s actually a great analogy! Saber fencing is very fast, and just like Formula 1 it comes down to a fast start and great reaction time. Epee and NASCAR are much longer games. The key in both sports is patience and the ability to identify and seize the right opportunity to win.

Q: Swashbuckling has been a part of movies since Douglas Fairbanks in the 1920s. Do you have a favorite on-screen fencer?

A: Of course, but for all the wrong reasons! My favorite on-screen fencer is Miranda Frost from the James Bond film “Die Another Day.” Her character is the women’s Olympic epee champion from the 2000 Games. The actual Olympic champion that year, Timea Nagy, is one of my favorite fencers, and I couldn’t help but wonder what she thought about the scene. However, I did love the sword fight sequence in that film. Stage fencing and sport fencing are two completely different worlds. I once choreographed a fencing scene for a play in high school and ever since then have had a lot of respect for people who can choreograph those theatrics.

Q: Does the name Inigo Montoya still hold sway among today’s generation of fencers?

A: My coach’s favorite jump-to fencing joke is to say, “My name is Inigo Montoya, you killed my father, prepare to die.” Except he is Russian so he when he tries to do the accent it comes out really funny.

Q: Enough about fictional fencers. What about real ones? Who is the best fencer out there?

A: The U.S. men’s foil team is the best in the world. They are all amazing fencers individually and come together well as a team to achieve amazing results. My hope is that the epee team will be able to achieve similar results in the future. I think it’s possible; the U.S. epee team won the world championships in 2012 and took fifth at the most recent World Cup in Italy.

Q: What about all time? Whom do you consider to be the best ever?

A: Several fencers come to mind. In the modern era I would say the best is Valentina Vezzali from Italy. She is a foil fencer who has won six Olympic gold medals. Her intensity and will are indomitable.

Q: Your OSU bio indicates you have some interesting family members; what can you share?

A: My aunt, Ellen Cohen, is the current mayor pro tem for the city of Houston and has served as a representative in the Texas legislature. She is also an OSU alum. My grandma, Roberta Harris, is an artist who has had her entire collection of work exhibited at the Smithsonian Women’s Museum in Dallas. My late uncle, Michael Weiss, has an indie legal-drama film titled “Puncture,” made about a case he helped win. Chris Evans portrays him in the film. To be honest, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. My family is amazing and when we put our minds to something we see things through to their fullest.

Q: Your bio also indicates you play Pokémon. Does that bio need updated? Is that a still a thing?

A: Absolutely not! My bio will stay as is. I love Pokemon! I just bought the new game and have successfully made it past the first challenge. Unfortunately, with final exams and competitions coming up I will not be able to play as much as I want to. I’m waiting for winter break to really dive in.

Q: What about your major? What are you studying and what interests you about it?

A: My current focus is in eastern European and Slavic studies. History, geography, and language have always been my favorite subjects, and when I was exposed at a young age to different cultures I wanted to learn more. So I knew that when I got to university that’s what I wanted to study. Lucky for me OSU has an amazing Slavic studies program, so now I’m able to talk about the region with those same coaches who initially inspired me to learn about its many languages and cultures.

Q: What’s your future in fencing? Do you have plans beyond the NCAAs this year?

A: This year while competing in the NCAAs, I’m also actively competing for a position on the 2018 senior national team that will represent the USA at the 2018 world championships in China. Beyond that, I hope my future in fencing will be long and exciting. I plan to focus on my dreams of becoming a coach after graduating as well as continue training to qualify for future world championship and Olympic teams.