By Jennifer Hudson, GoPSUsports.com Student Athlete Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Two new staff members have joined the Penn State
fencing team this season to help the program move forward in its quest for
another national championship. Alexei Sintchinov and Heather Nelson are eager
to help lead the team as assistant and volunteer coaches, respectively,
beginning this season.
Sintchinov joins the Nittany Lions as an assistant coach after being a coach at Ohio State for the past three years.
He has been a professional coach since 1976 and is a Master of Sport in Fencing. Sintchinov started his coaching career internationally and was the head coach of the Belarus, Egypt and Tunisia national teams. He was named Honored Coach of Belarus in 1991 and head coach of the 2000 Egypt Olympic Team.
He is excited to continue his coaching career with such a decorated program here at Penn State and to help the team compete for championships.
"I would like to help the team make a good result at the NCAA championship," said Sintchinov. " I want to improve all students in epee and everyone on the team. I am happy to help anyone who wants to learn. My heart is open to all weapons."
With the past 40 years overseeing different fencers, the newest Nittany Lion knows how to fix problems and improve athletes to their best ability.
He was even a part of the coaching staff who helped guide the Buckeyes to the 2012 NCAA Championship title.
"All fencers have a strong part and weak part," said Sintchinov, "I will help shrink the weaknesses and increase the strengths. Everyone has a different problem that they need to work with. It is very important to work on strengths and weaknesses."
One thing Coach Alexei has added to the championship teams work out is a stepladder to improve their footwork. He believes in fast and strong legs for every great fencer needs.
Team members who have been working with Sintchinov in lessons are excited to have him and love what he is bringing to the program.
"He is a strong addition to our family," said Jessica O'Neill Lyublinsky, a junior epee fencer. "He really puts his heart into his work and I can already see he really wants to repeat our NCAA title as much as we do, if not more."
Nelson, a former fencer who is a grad student at Penn State, comes back to the team as a volunteer assistant coach for the semester. She is helping improve everyone's strength with many conditioning drills she learned from the Air Force Academy.
Nelson, a Second Lieutenant, attended the USAF for her undergraduate work,, majoring in aerospace engineering. She was on the fencing team at the Academy for three years allowing her to fence her last year of eligibility with the Nittany Lions when she came for graduate school last fall.
"Heather's work outs are challenging," said Brianne Cavaliere, a junior saber fencer. "They force you to not only push yourself, but your teammates so we can be the best we can."
Nelson helps the team's workouts, which consist of many strength and conditioning skills that are challenging for the Nittany Lions. The drills are done in organized lines as if you were in the military. The team does reps of different strength exercises while counting out loud as one team. Everyone must stay in time or the team will start over.
"Military style training is working as a team," said Nelson. "If one can't compete the repetition, the team starts over."
Nelson helps the team do different strength stations in groups with time limits pushing each fencer to do multiple strength activities as fast as they can in groups. If a group fails to complete a station, the team will do a great deal of push ups to make up the difference.
"The drills as a team is the same as fencing as a team," said Nelson. "You send 12 to NCAAs who are your best fencers but if one falls, it can lose you the championship. The exercises show that the team is only as strong as the weakest person you send."
From all the drills, Nelson hopes to help the team gain more endurance to help them get through the long tiring days at regionals and NCAAs to bring home another championship.
Doing her workouts twice a week, the team is very happy with how their strength and conditioning is improving this year.
"I love it here at Penn State," said Nelson. "I'm glad I'm back but I wish I could stay the whole season."
Nelson unfortunately is only here for one semester because she is graduating in December. She is off to Colorado Springs to work in an Air Force satellite lab after graduation. The Nittany Lions will be sad to see her go, but her assistance with conditioning will hopefully contribute to another successful season.