With the London Games set to begin later this month, PAW shines the spotlight on some of Princeton’s Olympians and Olympic hopefuls — and the paths they’ve traveled to reach the highest level of international competition.
When Soren Thompson ’05 walked away from fencing in 2008, the transition seemed natural. He had competed in the Olympics in 2004, finishing seventh in men’s epee, but fell short in 2008 after suffering a hamstring tear late in the qualifying cycle. Fencing was not going to be his career, so he took a job at a green-technology startup. He stayed in shape and competed in domestic tournaments, but his top-15 world ranking plummeted nearly 200 spots.
As the 2012 Olympic qualifying season approached, Thompson began to think about returning to the strip. This time, he’d be making enormous sacrifices, putting his career on hold and paying travel and training expenses — in a sport that holds every major event outside the United States.
Thompson decided to compete. He moved to a part-time work schedule and made an immediate splash in his sport, placing third in the Stockholm Epee Grand Prix in May 2011 to become an early favorite in the U.S. qualifying chase. A year later, he reached No. 8 in the world epee standings — a career best — and qualified for the London Olympics.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been involved in a process where I risked so much and then gained so much,” Thompson says.