Estep has disappointing fencing finish

By Lindsay Wyskowski | Sept. 05, 2012, 1:44 p.m. (ET)

Team USA has yet to produce a fencing win at the London 2012 Paralympic Games.

Learn more about wheelchair fencer Ryan Estep

LONDON – From the side of piste 7, Ryan Estep (Florence, Miss.) was watching the duels of his competitors while he awaited his preliminary bouts of men’s epee individual wheelchair fencing on Wednesday. He was expecting a much better experience, but did not advance out of the pool play round, losing four of his five matchups for the afternoon.

“My experience today is definitely not what we’d hoped, coming in number two in points in the world and number four in the seeding,” Estep said following the preliminary round. “It’s definitely not what we wanted to see because I was really the shot.”

Estep is a relative newcomer to wheelchair fencing. He picked up fencing less than three years ago, following a car accident. He has been competing internationally in the sport for two years.

“I was just an inch or two off today,” he said. “You saw how much that can cost you.”

Though Estep was disappointed in his own performance, it wasn’t necessarily because he missed his medal chances. He said he had hoped to finish in a better position to give thanks to his coach, Les Stawicki. “My coach deserved better than that. He really does, and I’m supposed to deliver that for him and I haven’t been able to.”

In fact, Estep credits his abilities and his accomplishments in his career to Stawicki.

“There’s no way I’d be where I am today without my coach,” he said. “Coming in to the biggest tournament of my life with an amazing chance, amazing seeding at number four seeded in the world; it’s all thanks to my coach.”

The day didn’t turn out the way Estep had hoped, but he will return to ExCel for more fencing to support his teammate, Joey Brinson (Florence, Miss.). “I’ll be back ready to cheer for Joey tomorrow,” he said. “He’s my training partner and my best friend, almost my brother. We’re so close. He’s got a shot to surprise a lot of people.”

For Estep’s first Paralympic Games experience, he has been shocked by the support from the people of London. He tuned in to watch swimming earlier in the week and while he was cheering for his U.S. teammates, he noticed the attention focused on Ellie Simmonds.

“When she won that 400 freestyle, I don’t think it was as loud when Michael Phelps won,” he said. “To hear people cheer just for the spirit and determination for any athlete, especially ones with disabilities; it was amazing.”

Also competing in the men’s individual epee wheelchair fencing event on Wednesday was Gary Van der Wege (Kyle, Texas), who also competed in the Athens 2004 Paralympic Games. Van der Wege also faced tough competition and was shut out in the preliminary round 0-5.