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|Though Cat Bouwkamp didn't advance to the final rounds of Paralympic fencing, she'll be back for Rio in 2016.|
Tuesday was the day I fenced in my event (women’s foil Category A) here in London at the Paralympics, and it was rough, to say the least. I went into the experience with the biggest butterflies in my stomach and a lack of confidence in my own skills. I did have an abundance of support, though. With me were my two coaches, Julio Diaz and Les Stawicki, plus two of my amazing teammates, Ryan Estep and Joey Brinson. My parents were also up in the stands, cheering after every point.
|Cat Bouwkamp, at 16, is much younger than the other Paralympic fencers. On the U.S. team the other fencers jokingly call her their daughter.|
One of the weirdest parts about fencing in a big competition like the Paralympics or a World Cup is that I have to be able to fight against people whom I’ve also learned from and have so much respect for. When I started wheelchair fencing three years ago, I had no idea what in the world I was doing. The people I compete against now are the same ones I looked to then for moves or mental approaches. There's a joke on my team that instead of being the "little sister," I'm the daughter -- because almost every other athlete in the wheelchair fencing community could be my father or mother.
When I went out to fence on Tuesday, my pool was a vicious one, and I started off slowly, not working to my full potential. After I got used to the crowd and atmosphere, I ended up working pretty well against two of my opponents. Unfortunately, it was too late to stage a comeback, and I didn't advance past the qualification rounds.
Oddly enough, I'm not devastated by this major loss. I do realize that I'm young and haven't reached my mental and physical peak in the sport. I also want to try out other wheelchair sports before Rio, and I plan on being there for the 2016 Paralympics no matter what. There is nothing that can replace the amazing feeling of coming to my first Paralympic Games, but I hope that I can achieve the first-time feeling of medaling at the Games in 2016.
Don't forget my name, America. I'll be back!