Head Coach Emmanuil Kaidanov Takes Part in 2009 Spring Media Day
Feb. 10, 2009
Emmanuil G. Kaidanov, Head Coach
Q: Coach, talk about the importance of hosting the NCAA Championships. What does that mean for the program and what does that mean for you?
A: Last time we had the championships it was in 1991. I kind of felt that we postponed it a few times and it was time for us to hold it. Besides, to be honest, I had high hopes of winning championships this year, which I don't like to speak about but now I can because we have several people injured so I can talk about that freely. It's a very tough year and this year will probably be as tough as any others. We had certain things that didn't work in our favor like injuries. One of our leading fencers, for example, Aleksander Ochocki, got an operation last Friday and the recovery period is somewhere between four and six weeks. The doctors expressed some doubt that he will be ready by the time of regional championships, which is in four weeks. We have some other normal things. We have some young fencers on the team who need experience. They might step in at the time of need and we'll see how they will perform.
Q: Is there any added pressure on fencers, being at home for the national championships?
A: Very much so. But the biggest pressure is the pressure they put on themselves. They want to win badly and I would say that actually reacts negatively on their performance. The moment they become more comfortable with the role of leaders and the role of hosts, I think they will become themselves and then they can show what they are capable of. We started the season rated number one in the women's team and sharing number one with Notre Dame in the men's team, but by today we lost a few matches, including one match for the women. That kind of allows us to let steam go out a little bit. That's the case when losing is a positive thing. I hate losing, as you understand, but when it happens you have to get the best out of it.
Q: Do you wish it were being held at a different location?
A: Actually, I didn't think about that. I just think of the fact that we cannot change it, our venue. Whether we're traveling somewhere to compete or we're competing at home in that situation, I wouldn't put that much emphasis on that.
Q: Can you talk a little bit about Caitlin (Thompson) and Doris (Willette) being back and where they're at right now? Are they where you expected them to be, even after missing last year?
A: Of course, my gosh. Last year, with those two ladies, they're definitely the favorite two in national championships. They're back on the team, their spirit is high, their level of desire is on the highest level, so I am sure they will benefit the team to the full extent. They're human, they can lose a bout or two, and it's not a big deal. But the important thing is their presence and their maturity. The high level of maturation is very important for the entire team.
Q: On the men's side, do you look to any specific individuals to help pull that team along now?
A: Yes, I have a few people in mind who could step in on this level. But don't forget I'm Russian and I'm superstitious so I would rather speak about that afterwards. But yes, we have several kids in different weapons that have this potential, these qualities. We have freshmen who have qualities like that. I won't be surprised to see those guys step in and show the way.
Q: Has the site for regionals been set?
A: Yes, the site is Drew University, which is our favorite site. It's a huge field for the competition. We have a lot of space there. It's centrally located in the sense that it's easy to commute to. It's also a place where we can bring good referees without as many problems as we have in the extremes of the geographic locations, like North Carolina or Penn State. It is an ideal place for having a regional tournament.
Q: This year, maybe more than last year, there is a larger group of teams that could win the championships. Who do you think has the best chance?
A: On one hand, last year's winner, Ohio State, has lost a couple of their leading fencers so they're not as powerful as they were last year. On the other hand, two schools, like Notre Dame and Columbia University, had a great recruiting year so they practically do not have any weak spots on their teams and they have the capability of not only qualifying the maximum number of people, six men and six women, for the national championships, but also having all those 12 to be a solid fencers. So to compete with them is not easy at all. Now the University of Pennsylvania, which surprised us by beating us so badly a couple weekends ago, is not an easy opponent either. St. John's is the mystery team. So we do have a number of teams who are capable of winning national championships and I should say that Penn State is among them.
Q: Can you talk about the impact of our Olympians?
A: It would highlight this year. Last Olympics were a big one for us. We had three Penn Staters compete at the Olympics and two of them came home with a silver medal. One was Adam Wiercioch who competed for Poland, and another one is Doris Willette who competed for the United States. The top Olympian was Nonpatat Panchan, a two-time NCAA champion who competed for his country. He didn't win a medal but he was pretty good over there. That is something to be proud of.