Former Hunter Fencer Goes for Olympic GloryJose Samora aims for London games
Ben Wynns, Staff Writer As athletes from every corner of the globe converge upon London for this sum- mer’s Olympic Games, one Hunter gradu- ate is hoping to bring a little of bit of 68th and Lexington to the Olympic Village.
Jose Samora, who is double majoring in Japanese and sociology, is hoping to qualify for the 2012 Summer Olympics in the foil division of the fencing tournament. Samora, who had previously participated in United States national championships, has been encouraged by the Olympic committee of the Dominican Republic to represent the country of his parents’ birth in this year’s tournament.
Samora will make his attempt to qualify in the regional tournament for the Americas in Chile this May. Only those countries that have not yet qualified full teams for the Olympics will be participating in this tournament, and only two individual slots to the London games are available through the tournament, so Samora must make the finals in order to qualify.
But much of Samora’s would-be competition has already qualified through the United States’ team slot. “It’s a lot easier now that I don’t have to worry about other U.S. guys,” Samora states. In addition, Samora has been aided by the International Olympic Committee’s decision to reinstate an individual foil tournament, which had not been held in the most recent Olympic Games in Beijing.
Should he successfully qualify, Samora would join an illustrious group of Hunter fencers who have gone on to represent their country. The hiring of legendary collegiate fencer Julia Jones Pugliese as head coach in 1956 ushered in a successful era for Hunter fencing, producing Olympians such as Louise Knab Dyer and four-time Olympic participant Harriet King.
Hunter’s most successful fencer of recent decades was Pan-American Games gold medalist and U.S. national champion Sharon Monplaisir, who competed in the Seoul Olympics of 1988.
However, Samora would become the first Hunter graduate to fence for a nation other than the U.S. in Olympic competition. In addition, he would blaze a new trail for the Dominican Republic. The country has never qualified a fencer for the full Olympic Games, and Dominicans have historically had little success in continen- tal competitions such as the Pan-American Games.
It wasn’t until he was contacted by the Dominican Olympic Committee that Samora began considering a run for an Olympic spot, and he admits the intense mental and physical training has been difficult.
“There have been times where I’ve been exhausted and considered quitting, but the support of the Hunter athletic community has really kept me going,” he said. “We talk to each other and support each other at events, and everybody has told me to keep going.”
Samora, who was born and raised in New York and attended Frederick Doug- lass Academy in Harlem, remarked that he had never felt much of a connection with his heritage before his time at Hunter, which has brought him in touch with his culture both athletically and academically.
“It wasn’t until I took Caribbean studies courses and began working on projects with my Spanish professors that I really started to feel Dominican pride,” he explained.
It is this growing patriotism and pride that has provided enjoyment for Samora as he continues an otherwise strenuous and difficult training process. “Early on with the Dominican team, I noticed there were so many other teams like the USA, Cuba, and Chile that have red, white, and blue as their colors. I realized we were going to have to be very distinctive to stand out, and so we like to be sort of loud and flashy to represent ourselves,” he said. “We have fun.”
If it all works out, Jose Samora will be displaying his pride for both the Dominican Republic and Hunter College in front of billions this August in England.