The USA Fencing National Championships and July Challenge have returned to Columbus for a third time, boasting a record-breaking 5,400-plus athletes from 48 states and 20 nations.

The competition, which was also held in Columbus in 2013 and 2014, will take place Friday through July 7 in the Greater Columbus Convention Center, hosting 94 events in total.

>>VIDEO: USA Fencing National Championships and July Challenge

The 10-day event will feature competition in all three of fencing’s main disciplines — épée, sabre and foil — and will showcase athletes from ages 7 to 85 in 16 age categories.

Headlining the event will be six Division I competitions — the men’s and women’s divisions of each discipline — which will feature athletes who compete regularly at either the club or collegiate level. Ohio State is slated to have three representatives in the men’s epee and one each in the men’s and women’s saber and men’s foil.

The most notable Ohio State competitor is 2019 NCAA epee champion Oliver Shindler, who grabbed his first individual NCAA title in the event on March 22 and helped lead the Buckeyes to a sixth-place finish in the NCAA championships.

Having just graduated from Ohio State in May, Shindler is planning to take a year off to chase his Olympic dream, hoping to qualify for the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo. He sees this competition as his next step toward attaining that goal.

“I’ve been training all summer, commuting from Chicago to Columbus and working with (assistant coach Katarzyna Dabrowa) at Ohio State. This competition starts the path toward the 2020 Olympics — it’s the first qualification event,” Shindler said. “This is a steppingstone toward the goal I’ve always had. It’s the first step to getting there.”

 

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Shindler isn’t the only one looking to use the championships as a platform for future success.

“There’s bunch of other guys that are looking for Tokyo 2020 — Ariel Simmons, Stephen Ewart, Dennis Kraft. I just have to be better than them,” Shindler said.

The Ohio State alumnus believes, however, that the location of the competition so close to his former campus provides him with an advantage.

“Columbus is like a second home for me. I want to make Ohio State proud and represent both Ohio State and the USA well. My goal is to do my best and come away as well as possible,” Shindler said.

The Division I men’s epee will take place Friday, with qualifiers from preliminary rounds at noon advancing to the event finals at 7 p.m. Other Buckeyes joining Shindler in the event will be rising junior Jack Bradford, who took first at the OSU Open during the 2018-19 season, and rising senior John Culpepper.

egeyer@dispatch.com

@GeyerEllen