You don’t understand how intricate fencing is until you’ve seen a fencer’s gear. 

A wire mesh mask, jacket, breeches, socks, gloves, fencing shoes, a sword, a body cord, and shoes: these were the items U of T veteran fencer Colin McCurdy had stuffed in his duffel bag as he walked into the studio at The Varsity

The equipment looked like it had been through a lot, and that’s because McCurdy has. The épéeist and physics and astronomy major started fencing as a Blue when he was a first-year student in 2019, and is now a seasoned veteran. While U of T’s fencing team is known for its dominance and has won seven championships in a row as of 2023, it didn’t take long for McCurdy to make a name for himself on the team. During the 2021–2022 Ontario University Athletics (OUA) championships, McCurdy won the individual épée event, helped his team win the épée relay, and propelled the Blues men’s fencing team to a sixth OUA championship.

In that same season, he was awarded a George Tully trophy — a skill, style, and sportsmanship award given out by OUA — for his efforts and U of T named him the Frank Pindar athlete of the year on. Long story short, he has swept both the scoreboards and the trophy cabinets. 

“I was surprised,” McCurdy said when asked about his prolific performance at the OUA 2021–2022 championships. “I remember my mindset [during the 2021–2022] season was really more focused on school… I could have lost and I wouldn’t have felt bad but [I thought] ‘why not just keep going?’ ”He kept going, and if you’re a fan of the Varsity Blues, you’re glad he did.

McCurdy gets into his fencing stance. MEKHI QUARSHIE/ THE VARSITY

The 2023 OUA Championships

McCurdy’s secret may be his nonchalant attitude — a laissez-faire outlook on the sport that he is so gifted at. Varsity sports can be filled with pressure, expectations, and anticipation. McCurdy doesn’t buy into any of this. He shows up and fences. His tranquility is his greatest weapon, and that’s saying a lot considering that he carries a sword around.

During my conversation with McCurdy before the 2023 OUA championships that took place between February 17 and 19, he told me he wasn’t sure whether he was going to compete in the individual tournament or not. There are set spots for both the individual and team groupings to go to OUA championships, and considering he’s a fourth-year student, he was hoping to give his spot to a new member, as his chances of winning back to back OUA individual championships were slim. 

He then went to the OUA championships in February and won a Desjarlais Trophy as men’s épée individual champion. He also helped the Varsity Blues men’s fencing team win its seventh straight OUA title.

When he spoke to The Varsity after the OUA championships, McCurdy attributed his success to two main reasons. First, he said that he was glad he didn’t fence any of his teammates. Due to the fact that the Blues are so good at fencing, McCurdy’s kryptonite is likely to be one of his own teammates. McCurdy got ranked in the middle of the board after the round robin portion, and in his second match, saw himself going up against Rick Wu, the top- ranked fencer of the day from Western University. After beating Wu, McCurdy said he had “the easiest route to the finals.” 

In the finals, McCurdy beat Nicholas Gutierrez Sarabia from Brock University, a fencer he lost to in the round robins. “It was a tough match,” McCurdy said. “I had my team behind me and they were coaching me a lot so I really didn’t have to think too much. I just was told what to do and I tried my best.”

McCurdy rests on his épée. MEKHI QUARSHIE/ THE VARSITY

Looking into the future

McCurdy is looking to come back and fence for another year. He says that his goal now is to coach students coming into the sport as a veteran. He also said that he wants to start trying a bit more. 

McCurdy used the same s-word to describe his reaction to this year’s OUA championships as he did the year before: “Surprised,” he said. “I’m definitely not going to relax during the offseason now.” 

As a personal achievement, McCurdy aims to ‘three-peat’ OUA’s championships and win the individual épée award again. He’s focused on improving his athleticism and his fencing so that the next time he wins, it won’t be as surprising to him. 

While it may be surprising for McCurdy to see his own success, it’s obvious to onlookers that he is extremely talented. Once he starts trying as much as everyone else, good luck getting a stab at him.