TINTON FALLS – Ranney sophomore Nicole Vaiani has been fencing since she was 8 years old.
Inspired by her mother JoAnn, who fenced as a teenager, Vaiani and her older brother, John, decided to try out the sport. She started at Atlantic Fencing Academy in Tinton Falls under the guidance of Ranney’s Head Fencing Coach Agota Balot, and has been coached by Istvan Martin for the past six years – Vaiani describes him as one of her biggest supporters.
Recently, the 16-year-old from Wall traveled to Pisa, Italy, where she won a bronze trophy for Team USA out of 105 fencers at the Cadet World Cup.
“It was an honor to fence among the world’s best cadet fencers,” said Vaiani. “Winning the bronze medal not only for myself, but also for the United States was truly fulfilling.”
Vaiani practices four times a week with personal training twice a week. To prepare for competitions, she makes it a priority to get plenty of sleep and loads up on carbs the week before. In fact, eating pasta the evening before she competes has become her good luck charm. Vaiani also makes sure to mentally prepare herself before each competition, noting that fencing is both a physical and mental game.
All of her hard work has paid off. At the young age of 15, Vaiani has a long list of accomplishments, including an 11th place finish at the Division I Senior North American Cup, 23rd at the Cadet World Cup in Tauberbischofsheim, Germany, first at the 2014 Junior Olympic Qualifier for the New Jersey Division, 16th place at the Cadet North American Cup, 9th at the Cadet 2013 Summer Nationals and first at the Y12 2010 Summer Nationals.
“There have been many moments in my fencing career that I have been so proud of,” Vaiani said. “However, I believe this competition will be the most memorable because I was able to achieve the bronze medal after undergoing a double hernia operation only five months ago. After going through such a difficult operation and recovery, winning this trophy made the victory much sweeter.”
At Ranney, Vaiani is cocaptain of the varsity fencing team and in her first season, finished second at the 2013 New Jersey Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) Individual State Championship which marked the first NJSIAA podium for a female Ranney fencer. She also was a member of Ranney’s winning girls’ foil squad that won gold at prep states and finished fourth at districts.
Outside of fencing, Vaiani is involved in the school’s award-winning Torch newspaper, Science Olympiad, Harvard Model Congress and the Science Research Club.
“I believe in putting just as much effort into academics as well as sports. School work is very important to me,” she said.
“It has truly been a joy to watch Nicole develop over the years into the amazing fencer that she is,” her mother said. “She is so talented and dedicated to the sport. I am very lucky to have had the opportunity to share such memorable moments by her side on the trip. While her accomplishments as an athlete are many, it is her great sportsmanship above all circumstances that impresses me the most.”
Although she is just a sophomore, Vaiani is hoping to continue her success and is setting goals for her future.
“I hope to be recruited by an Ivy League school, just as my brother was to the University of Pennsylvania for fencing,” she said. “I also hope to inspire other Ranney fencers to continue to enjoy the sport just as I have over the past few years. I will keep working hard at fencing and hopefully, my training will result in more success.”