MOUNT PLEASANT, N.Y. – Thirteen-year-old fencing sensation Sylvie Binder, who has trained in Mount Pleasant for nearly half her life, is The Mount Pleasant Daily Voice Athlete of the Month for January.
Binder won the Y14 women’s foil event at the United States Fencing Association’s Super Youth Circuit Tournament in New Hampshire in early January. She bested a field of 61 fencers from around the nation to win the gold medal.
The 13-year-old began fencing at age 6 after she and her father, Jeffrey Binder, went on a camping trip with some friends. One of them made a life-changing observation.
“He noticed she was a lefty and said, ‘Have you ever tried fencing?’ ” Jeffrey Binder said.
So the family walked into the Fencing Academy of Hawthorne and “her eyes lit up like golf balls,” Binder said.
“It sort of just dawned on me,” Binder said of his daughter’s reaction. “What kid doesn’t like to play with swords?”
She didn’t compete until age 10, but she quickly began to dominate the competition. Now, she is ranked 10th in the country in her age group, and eight of the nine girls in front of her are older than she. When they move into the next group, Sylvie will have a chance to vie for the top spot.
And it’s been quite the journey from that camping trip seven years ago.
“It never even crossed my mind, honestly, let alone top 10,” Sylvie said. “I didn’t even think that I was going to be that serious.”
Four years ago, Sylvie loved the sport so much that she suggested to her parents that they open a club of their own in their hometown of Armonk. Today, the Binders run two fencing academies in Armonk and Darien, Conn. Coaches from the Fencing Academy of Hawthorne travel to the recreational clubs once a week to give lessons.
So Sylvie is not only one of America’s top fencers. She’s also an entrepreneur.
“It’s really neat. I like watching people, 6, 7, 8, pick up a foil for the first time and go, ‘Whoa!’ and see coaches try to explain things to them and they say, ‘Oh my gosh!’ ” Sylvie said.
The 13-year-old eighth-grader at H.C. Crittenden Middle School has already accomplished a great deal in her young career. Her proudest moment, she said, was winning a national tournament in Anaheim, Calif., in the summer.
And for now, she’s just enjoying the ride.
“I’d just like to keep going,” Sylvie said. “See how far it will take me.”