Senior saber fencer Daria Schneider hasn’t been spotted around the environs of Morningside Heights lately. While most students have been drooling over piles of books in Butler, Schneider has been, well, meeting with the president of the United States. Schneider, a contender for the London 2012 Olympic Games, traveled to Washington, D.C. to partake in an exhibition supporting Chicago’s bid for the 2016 Olympics on Sept. 17.
President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama hosted the demonstration that featured 15 athletes who have either competed in the Olympic and Paralympic Games or are in contention for the 2012 Olympics. Chicago Mayor Richard Daley and Olympic gold medalist Jackie Joyner-Kersee also attended. Included in the day’s events were gymnastic demonstrations by middle school students and a judo sparring match.
The United States Olympic Committee (USOC) planned the event in order to demonstrate a few sports including fencing. The USOC first contacted 2008 Olympic fencing silver medalist Tim Morehouse who then asked Schneider to participate opposite himself in the demo. Shneider, co-captain of the Lions’ fencing team and two-time All-American fencer, earned a gold medal at the NCAA Regionals in 2007 and a bronze medal at the 2009 NCAA Championships. She also boasts an impressive 124-20 collegiate record in addition to being twice named National Fencer of the Week by CollegeFencing360.com.
“The first thing my mother, who was ecstatic, said after I told her “don’t tell anyone” was, “can I tell your father?” said Schneider in an e-mail.
With just 48 hours until the event, Schneider received a confirmation e-mail formally inviting her to the White House. As a result, she had little time to tell anyone and the people she did tell “had some little issue they wanted me to discuss with him [Obama], Afghanistan, retirement policy, etc.”
Following brief speeches from the president and first lady, Schneider and Morehouse displayed their fencing prowess in a brief duel refereed by Obama himself.
“We had done a demo together before so we had a good game plan,” explained Schneider. “Since we received little to no instruction we had a lot of freedom which was nice because we were able to plan a very creative demo, sign autographs for kids that were there, and do interviews with all the press during down time.”
Despite the spotlight, Schneider kept her cool and never let the overwhelming situation get to her head.
“I was not nervous—probably due to my competition experience it takes a lot more to make me nervous—but I was definitely excited,” she said.
After refereeing Schneider and Morehouse’s match, the Obamas took friendly jabs at each other with their plastic sabers in a playful duel, cementing the afternoon as an unofficial press field day.
Luckily for Schneider, she actually had an opportunity to trade some words with the president and first lady.
“We mostly talked about how fencing works, the rules etc.” said Schneider. “We also talked to Michelle and I told her how much the Chicago bid meant to me personally because my mother is from the south side of Chicago just like she is.”
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) will meet in Copenhagen, Denmark on Friday to discuss whether Chicago, Madrid, Rio de Janeiro, or Tokyo will host the 2016 Olympic Games. The Obamas and Daley will make pitches in front of the IOC in an attempt to bring the Olympics back to the States for the first time since the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, Ga.
“It was so inspiring to meet the Obamas,” Schneider continued. “I will remember this experience for the rest of my life.”
Schneider is currently competing in the 2009 World Fencing Championships in Antalya, Turkey.