As a 10-year-old swept up in the Hunger Games series, Hadley Husisian ’26 followed the path of heroine Katniss Everdeen and signed up for archery lessons. So did everyone else. She ended up in her second-choice activity, fencing, which proved a good fit for her athletic strengths and strategic mindset.
“Obviously, I’m grateful for it,” she said. “I pretty much fell in love with [fencing] right away.”
A decade later, Husisian is a two-time junior world champion in women’s epee and a contender to represent the United States at the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.
Husisian decided to take a break from college this year to devote her energies more fully to fencing. She is living off campus with Princeton teammate Maia Weintraub ’25, the 2022 NCAA women’s foil champion, who caught her first glimpse of the Olympics in Tokyo three years ago, traveling with the U.S. team as a training partner.
Weintraub maintained an ambitious international competition schedule during her first two years at Princeton, but an Olympic year comes with “added stress, even though it’s the same tournaments that you always go to,” she said. “I really wanted to make sure that I do everything I can and that I have no regrets.”
In addition to Weintraub and Husisian, two other undergraduates have taken gap years to compete for spots in Paris: Jovana Sekulic ’26, who plays for the U.S. women’s water polo team; and Beth Yeager ’26, who traveled to India with U.S. women’s field hockey for an Olympic qualifying tournament Jan. 13-19. (Results were not available for this issue.)
Husisian said Princeton fencing coach Zoltan Dudas was the first person to mention the idea of taking a year off, back when she was a high school recruit. Hearing that from Dudas, a two-time U.S. Olympic coach, provided a vote of confidence.
Both fencers train at Princeton and in New York City’s Fencers Club, commuting multiple times a week. Weintraub also spends time at her home club in Philadelphia. When they’re not on the fencing strip, they’re working — Weintraub as a research technician in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and Husisian as an intern for academic researchers and civil rights nonprofits.
Even with work and training, Weintraub and Husisian said they have more flexibility than during a typical Princeton semester. Weintraub has used the free time to build rest and recovery into her routine, something that Husisian said has been a challenge for her. “It’s hard to turn it off and recognize that at some point there are diminishing returns,” she said.
Weintraub, already on her second Olympic qualifying cycle at age 21, focuses on managing the inevitable ups and downs. She was thrilled, for example, when she won the October North America Cup but then frustrated when she didn’t fence at the same level in an international event that followed. “Even though that was just one out of maybe six [international events] and this season is far from over, I felt it a lot more because that is all I’m really thinking about,” she said.
Husisian adds that having a roommate who understands the high stakes and can talk about them — or talk about something else, when they need to get away from fencing — has been invaluable. “I’m really grateful to have Maia,” she said.
Qualifying events continue through April. In the U.S. team standings as of early January, Weintraub ranked fourth in women’s foil and Husisian was fifth in women’s epee. Three competitors and one alternate in each weapon will qualify for Paris.
Eighteen Princeton alumni and students represented their countries at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics, and the 2024 cycle is off to a promising start:
Hannah Scott ’21 (Great Britain) earned gold in the women’s quadruple sculls, leading a group of four alumni medalists at the 2023 World Rowing Championships in September.
Quincy Monday ’23 (United States) won the 74-kilogram division at the USA Wrestling Senior Nationals in December, earning a berth in the U.S. Olympic Trials.
Kareem Maddox ’11 and Blake Dietrick ’15 (United States) each won gold in 3x3 basketball at the 2023 Pan American Games in October, qualifying the U.S. men’s and women’s teams for the Olympic tournament in Paris.
Ashleigh Johnson ’17 (United States) is poised for a third Olympic appearance after leading the U.S. women’s water polo team to qualification with a Pan American Games title in November.
Kathryn Fluehr ’16, Jakob Kintzele ’22, Matt McDonald ’15, and Maddie Offstein ’19 (United States) entered February’s U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials. McDonald is a two-time trials qualifier; the other three alumni are running the trials for the first time.
Beth Yeager ’26 (United States) helped the U.S. women’s field hockey team earn a spot in the Paris Olympics at a qualifying tournament in India Jan. 13-19. Yeager scored the lone goal in a 1-0 group stage win over New Zealand.
Brothers Sondre Guttormsen ’23 and Simen Guttormsen ’23 (Norway) placed second and third, respectively, in the pole vault at the Norwegian Championships in July. Sondre also competed in the World Athletics Championships in August.
Tristan Szapary ’24 (United States) won a bronze medal in men’s epee at USA Fencing’s North American Cup in January.