As she qualified for Olympics, U.S. fencer had ongoing talks with God

| Kelly Seegers | August 2, 2016 | 0 Comments
Olympic fencer Katharine Holmes, who grew up in the Washington area and attended the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Washington with her family, is shown with her Princeton University fencing coach Zoltan Dudas after winning a bronze medal at the 2016 Pan American Championships in June. She will compete in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. CNS photo/coutesy Catholic Standard

Olympic fencer Katharine Holmes, who grew up in the Washington area and attended the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Washington with her family, is shown with her Princeton University fencing coach Zoltan Dudas after winning a bronze medal at the 2016 Pan American Championships in June. She will compete in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. CNS photo/coutesy Catholic Standard

As fencer Kat Holmes was going through the Olympic trials, she had “an almost ongoing conversation with God.”

She said she was “constantly asking for reassurance and strength that I could do it, that I really could qualify, that I could keep going.”

“When things were really getting rough, I remembered a line from ‘Chariots of Fire’ in which, when talking about running, Eric Liddell said, ‘God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. When I run, I feel his pleasure,'” she said in an email interview with the Catholic Standard, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Washington. “This is largely how I feel about my fencing. God gave me such a gift … and, in this sport and in following my dreams, I feel as if I am living the life he wished for me, utilizing all that he blessed me with.”

Holmes, whose family currently attends Annunciation Parish in Washington, grew up attending the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Washington. She will be participating in two events in the Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro: the women’s individual epee and the women’s team epee.

She is studying neuroscience at Princeton University, but she has taken two years off to train for her first Olympics. She will return in the fall to complete her senior year, then plans to take some time off to continue training before attending medical school.

Raymond Finkleman and his wife, Jean, have coached Holmes through the Chevy Chase Fencing Club since she was 9. Raymond Finkleman said when Holmes was growing up, she was always No. 1 in the country in every age group, but it is not just being at the top that makes her special.

“I think primarily it is her ability to focus and to fight, and while doing that under stressful competitive conditions, she is able to concentrate. She is really smart and able to adjust her game to her opponents on the fly.”

Finkleman added that he often saw Holmes talking to other young fencers at tournaments and encouraging them. “I think her love of her sport is passed on to others that way,” he said.

Holmes told the Catholic Standard that she never really seriously considered going to the Olympics until she was 15.

“That year I made my first U.S. cadet (17 and under) national team and I took second place at (the) World Championships. That was the first time that I thought that maybe the Olympics was something actually attainable rather than just a fantasy,” she wrote.

Holmes said she has not lived in Washington for the past six years, “but I have carried my faith with me all throughout my training and travels. The great thing about being Catholic is that all Catholics are your family. It doesn’t matter whether I am in D.C., Princeton, or even Qatar, I have always been able to find members of my family to turn to in times of both need and joy.”

She called Rio de Janeiro “the most interesting and eclectic place I have ever been. It strikes me as the city that would pop up if Budapest (Hungary) and Buenos Aires (Argentina) had a baby. It is plopped in a jungle, in between mountains, on the turquoise ocean. It is simply stunning. The culture, atmosphere, and food is so lively and full of excitement and energy that simply being there is a pleasure.”

Seegers is a reporter for the Catholic Standard, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Washington.

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