The Olympics are not new to fencing coach Bob Largman. In fact, the Mendham resident and former coach has participated in Sydney, Athens and Beijing before taking the trip to London. Despite that, nothing about them has become commonplace.
“Each of the games in which I have participated have had a unique identity," he said. "Sydney will always be special because it was my first Olympics. Beijing was special because of the enormity, grandeur, and exotic fashion in which it was presented.”
The London games, according to Largman, have been an incredible experience of their own.
“London is special because of the incredible volunteers that have given so much to making these games a wonderful experience,” he said. “The venues and Village here are remarkable. London has made an effort to remake and rejuvenate parts of the city that needed an infusion of infrastructure upgrades and economic stimulus.”
The American fencers earned a bronze medal in the Women's Epee Team event, with three fourth-place finishes and another four top eight finishes. For his part, Largman said he could not be more pleased with the performance of his team considering their age.
“We have a young team that is more realistically looking at 2016 and 2020 for medal opportunities,” Largman said. “USA Fencing has now medaled in three consecutive Games. That was previously unheard of for USA Fencing in the past 116 years of the modern Olympic Games. USA Fencing is now counted on to help contribute toward the medal count for the United States in the overall competition. We are increasingly recognized as a contender for medals. So, while the competition itself is difficult and the pressures of performing in the Olympics on the world stage can be overwhelming, the additional pressures of expectations can further influence our performances. Our performance at the Games was quite good.”
Largman’s career also included time coaching fencing at Morristown High School, which according to the Largman is not that different from coaching an Olympic athlete.
“Fundamentally, nothing is different," he said. "That sounds kind of strange, I know. But the sport itself is no different at an Under 10 youth event or a high school championships or an Olympic Games. Yes, the nuances of the sport become more important as you progress to the higher levels, but an attack is an attack and a parry is still a parry and you score points in the same fashion.”
Largman said the major distinction is that the level of practice and training works to remove some of the psychological traps other athletes fall into.
“At the high school level, a skilled fencer can exceed on their technical knowledge and proficiency of the sport. At the world level, the psychological aspects of the sport become much more prominent in the results,” Largman said. “ Of course, you still need to be a skilled fencer, but the mental aspects of the Games can more often determine the outcome of a bout than one's ability to technically perform an attack.”
Heading home may be a customs challenge as Largman knows he must be loaded with souvenirs before returning stateside.
“If I didn't bring home anything, I might not be able to come home,” Largman said. “There are the usual items such as t-shirts and clothing. I have had so many people cover for me at work while I was away for three weeks. And, of course there is my family. Bringing home a shirt or two helps me show them I appreciate their support of my time and efforts to work with the Team. Ultimately, they are a part of the team because of what they allow me to do with USA Fencing.”
According to Largman, Olympic pins are always a great souvenir as pins are the “underground currency” of the Games, but the most important thing he will be carrying with him is from Cadbury.
“Chocolate. Cadbury chocolate in England is much richer and creamier than that in the States,” Largman said. “I'm under strict orders from my wife to bring home several bars of Cadbury chocolate.”