Louise Fournier who is about to enter her final semester of law school at McGill, finished 51st out of 70 fencers, in epee style category at the 2015 Summer Universiade games held in Gwangju, South Korea this past Saturday. She won two bouts of pool against a student from China and one from Hungary and lost 15-10 in direct elimination against a student competitor from the United States. She was the only female fencer representing Canada on a seven-member team from Canada.
“While I am a bit disappointed with the result, the competition was very strong with girls who compete on the world cup circuit being there. It was a good experience for me to fence them and I learned a lot. Now I will enjoy the rest of my stay here in Gwangju, encourage team Canada, go watch other sports and meet student-athletes from around the world,” said Fournier.
This Montreal-based athlete has been fencing since the age of 11, when she first fell in love with the sport during summer camp. Fournier is grateful for the opportunities she has had to travel the world from the young age of 17 despite, saying she is “not being very good internationally.”
Last year, Fournier did an exchange program in Shanghai, at Fudan University’s law school, while training with a Chinese professional fencing team.
While with fencing it was “love at first sight” for Fournier, studying law was something she resisted, but a family of lawyers managed to convince her otherwise.
“My dad is a lawyer, my two sisters are lawyers, so I didn’t want to go to law school because I didn’t want to follow their footsteps,” she says.
But she changed her mind, pulling away from psychology after realizing that a legal education would set her on path to be able to help people.
“I think doing a sport at a high level is partly why I got accepted at McGill straight from CEGEP without needing to do an undergraduate degree, meaning that I will be 23 when I finish my law degrees,” (civil and common), says Fournier.
“It’s a lot of discipline, I train often before going to school, then in the evening as well,” she says.
While in school she will sometimes train once a day, while on holidays both a fencing training session and a gym workout are a daily must-do.
Despite the financial and moral support from her family, Fournier, who is doing a full course load, finds competing while in law school challenging, especially when she has to squeeze in study time while travelling.
“When I have two hours to study I know I can’t procrastinate, I really have to use these two hours,” she says.
The games are organized every second year by the International University Sports Federation (FISU) and are the biggest international multi-sport event in size, number of countries, and number of athlete-participation following the Olympics says Michel Bélanger, spokesperson for Canadian Interuniversity Sport. The 2013 games in Russia featured more than 10,000 athletes from 170 countries, he says.
“If you look at the number of athletes, people don’t realize it’s the biggest event after the Olympics and it’s the same kind of system, multi-sport event, multi-nation, with an athlete’s village,” says Gilles Lépine, chef de mission of the 2015 Summer Universiade.
This year, 333 Canadian students are competing and for many of them, this competition will be one of the best experiences of their lives, says Lepine. But while the students may not all become elite athletes; they are destined to be stars of our society.
“They are going to be the next doctor, they’re going to be the next lawyer, the next architect. . .” says Lepine, “no big, big ego here.”
This may come as a surprise to some since not many are able to achieve this level of success, competing in front of 40,000 spectators on an international level. Lepine explains that hard work and unwavering determination has helped them stay humble.
“I will call [them] best of the best. Meaning, these young person[s], young men and young women are well educated, are athletic, they are leader[s] in their program. They are awesome, they are the future of the nation . . . probably the planet. In 20 years those person[s] will be in charge,” he says.
While the games will wrap up July 14 the fencing competition is underway until July 9.
As for Fournier, her immediate plans include graduation from law school in December, followed by the New York bar exam, then the Quebec bar exam, a master’s, and finally environmental or European law in Europe while fencing through it all for as long as she can.