Olympic fencer Katharine Holmes, who grew up in the Washington area and attended the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament with her family, is shown with her Princeton 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.
Olympic fencer Katharine Holmes, who grew up in the Washington area and attended the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament with her family, is shown with her Princeton 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.

Katharine Holmes, who goes by “Kat,” grew up attending the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament parish in Washington and is now going to be one of the four women on the US Epee Fencing Team competing at the 2016 Summer Olympics. She is studying neuroscience at Princeton, but has taken two years off to train for her first Olympic games in Rio de Janeiro. She will return in the fall to complete her senior year, and 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 years old, and will be traveling to Rio to watch her compete. Finkleman said when Holmes was growing up, she was always #1 in the country in every age group. But it is not just being at the top that makes her special, he said.

“There are a lot of things that make Kat special,” said Finkleman. “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 Kat 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, whose family currently attends Annunciation Parish in Washington, will be participating in two events in Rio: the women’s individual epee and the women’s team epee. In the below e-mail interview with the Catholic Standard, she talked about her training and how she has carried her faith with her everywhere she has traveled to compete.

When were you first inspired to go to the Olympics?

“I played a bunch of sports as a kid and  always watched the Olympics and thought that would be kind of cool but never really seriously considered it until I was 15. That year I made my first US 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.”

What motivates you to train so hard?

“When I was a kid, I trained hard because I loved to fence. To me it wasn’t training hard, it was simply doing what I loved.  I saw how working hard got me better and better results and realized that, quite simply, hard work was the key to success.  I still love fencing and, for the most part, training is not a chore, but that thought and the knowledge that running that extra mile might bring me one inch closer to the Olympic gold is a huge motivator.”

How have the communities at Annunciation and Blessed Sacrament supported you in your fencing, or in other aspects of your life?

“While I have not lived in D.C. for the past six years, I have carried my faith with me all throughout my training and travels. The great thing about being Catholic as 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.”

How does your Catholic faith personally help sustain you?

“Particularly this year while qualifying   for the Olympics, I had an almost ongoing conversation with God, 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.’ This is largely how I feel about my fencing. God gave me such a gift through 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.”  

What are you most looking forward to in Rio?

“I have been to Rio several times for World Cups, so have seen much of the city.  It is the most interesting and eclectic place I have ever been.  It strikes me as the city that would pop up if Budapest and Buenos Aires 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. After the Games, I look forward to simply absorbing the city and enjoying being in the moment and absorbing what is Rio.”

(The medal round of the women’s individual epee fencing will be Aug 6 at 3 p.m. ET. and the women’s team epee finals will be Aug 11 at 4 p.m. ET. They can be streamed online at http://www.nbcolympics.com/.)