Palisadian Makes His Mark in National Competitions and at Harvard-Westlake
When he was eight years old, Palisadian Teddy Levitt decided to attend a small summer boys’ camp in Maine. Scanning a list of activities to sign up for, his father suggested Teddy try fencing. At first he thought it referred to the art of building a fence, but when he found out “fencing” is actually a sport, he decided to give it a chance. Nine years later, Levitt is not yet a master at his craft but he’s definitely a work in progress. No, fencing doesn’t require a hammer and nails, but the tools of his trade can be every bit as dangerous. “Yes, you do have to be very careful,” Levitt admits. “There’s etiquette involved and you learn what you need to do to protect yourself.” Levitt is ranked 31st nationally in the junior division (under 19)–that after attaining a No. 6 United States ranking in the cadet (under 17) category. His weapon of choice is the sabre and he wields it with the skill of a samurai warrior. Whereas most novices start out wielding a foil, Levitt soon took a liking to the sabre because it is unique from the two other types of swords–the foil and epee. “I like the sabre because the sparring is much faster moving and you can slash with the side of the blade as opposed to just the tip,” Levitt says. “There are a lot more ways to score than just by poking the guy. There is a lot of explosive muscle movement, forward and back, and by the end of a tournament you can get pretty tired.” Levitt is used to being around at the end of tournaments. He won all of his bouts this season as captain of the Harvard-Westlake High fencing team, which captured the Mission League championship. He also placed sixth in his division at the Junior Olympics February 17 in Cleveland, Ohio. His schedule is booked for the rest of the year, too. He is slated to compete in the summer nationals in Charlotte, North Carolina, in June and then it’s on to Prague to fence with the Hungarian National team in July. “I played a lot of sports growing up,” says Levitt, who lives up the street from Riviera Country Club. “I played PPBA, I played AYSO, I played school volleyball. But when I was 12 I started really committing myself to fencing. The thing I like most about it is that no matter how bad the day went I can put on my stuff and release all my energy.” Three days a week, Levitt trains under the tutelage of his coach for five years, Daniel Costin, at the Los Angeles International Fencing Center (located at Olympic and Barrington) in West L.A. There he has benefited from sparring sessions with Jason Rogers, a standout high school fencer from Brentwood. Now a senior at Ohio State University, Rogers recently qualified for the 2004 U.S. Olympic team. On occasion, Levitt even crosses swords with world class Daniel Grigori, a member of Romania’s 2002 Olympic team. “The mindset I’ve learned from my coach [Costin] is that if you’re facing someone you know you can beat, you shouldn’t be nervous,” Levitt says. “If it’s someone who you know is better, you have nothing to lose so again you don’t have any reason to be nervous.” Though fencing occupies much of Levitt’s time, it is by no means his only interest. He plays two instruments, the flute and saxophone, in Harvard-Westlake’s jazz band and he counsels underprivileged kids at Camp Harmony in Malibu. On days he is not fencing, Levitt cross trains by running, swimming and playing tennis. At 5 feet, 10 inches tall, Levitt is neither too small to be at a reach disadvantage nor too tall to be “hit in preparation” when he is in close. Success, he says, is all about balance. “You can’t be one-sided,” he explains. “You have to have a healthy balance between defense and attack. If I had to define my style, I’d say I’m a little more defensive. I like to make my opponents miss so I can hit them.” Levitt isn’t thinking too far ahead, but he definitely sees fencing in his immediate future. He is considering East Coast schools with strong fencing teams like Yale, Princeton and Duke but has far from made up his mind. “I don’t know where I’ll end up, right now I’m just working as hard as I can,” he said. “No one comes out of the womb with a sword in hand. It’s a sport you really have to work at and that’s one of the reasons I enjoy it.”
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