Alexander Massialas at 2012 Summer Olympics

Featured Athlete: Olympic Fencer Alexander Massialas

Posted Portes Magazine PEOPLE
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alexanderTeam USA Olympic Fencing 2012

Height: 6’ 2” | Birthdate: April 20, 1994 | Birthplace: San Francisco

At 18 years of age, Alexander Massialas was the youngest male on the USA Olympic Fencing Team during the 2012 London Olympics. Born and raised in California, he grew up playing a variety of sports, and credits this to his Greek father, Greg Massialas, who is a three-time Olympian in fencing himself.

“From the very beginning I didn’t know if I wanted to fence, but I definitely knew I wanted to be an Olympian,” Massialas recalls. “It was just a matter of taking up the sport and once I started fencing I really enjoyed it, so I stuck with it.”

Trail Blazing

Although he did not take home a medal in London, Massialas has had a record of wins in several competitions. In 2010, at the age of 16, he became the youngest athlete to win the Men’s Foil Division I National Championship. Then again in 2011, Massialas earned a bronze at the Seoul World Cup, making him the youngest medal recipient at the competition. As impressive as it is to be the youngest winner of a tournament, Massialas does not let that fact get over his head. “I think a lot of people make a bigger deal out of it than it should be. I’m there to do a job and just because I’m young doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be held to a higher standard that I should be,” he says. “In London I felt like I had to go in there with the mindset that I’m just a competitor and I can’t let the age difference between me and the other competitors make a difference for me,” he recalls.

For Massialas, being part of the Olympics was a thrilling experience and one that he looks forward to reliving.  “Walking into the opening ceremonies is something that every athlete dreams of … and I’ll never forget that experience,” he says. “At the Olympics there is a unique sense of community that you don’t get anywhere else in the world. But it’s not just the downtime that is incredible, it’s actually going out there and competing at the highest level in front of the biggest crowds.” Massialas hopes to place again in 2016 and 2020. Bringing back the gold for Team USA is the goal and to prepare for that, the fencer works closely with his father and coach in hopes of making his dream a reality.

Massialas began competing in fencing at a national level around 13 years old, and since then has won dozens of national and international competitions. Though fencing is more of a low-key sport in the U.S., it is very popular in other parts of the world, Massialas explains. Competitions in the upcoming months will take him to Paris, Venice, St. Petersburg, and Tokyo, among other locations outside the U.S.

“What I love about fencing is that it’s such a dynamic sport.”

“What I love about fencing is that it’s such a dynamic sport,” he says. “Not only do you have to be explosive and very athletic to be successful, but you also have to be really smart mentally. You are not just trying to be the strongest or the quickest, you are also trying to outsmart your opponent, be one step ahead of them and avoid their traps.” Aside from fencing, Massialas also enjoys basketball, swimming, skiing, and has a general appreciation of music, which he gets from his Chinese mother who is a classical pianist. “Sports is just something that I grew up loving … and I love doing every kind of sport that I can,” he says.

“Sports is just something that I grew up loving …”

Beyond the Competition

Between school and competitions, Massialas also enjoys visiting his family and grandparents in Greece. In 2011, he had a chance to visit some of the Greek islands for the first time. Among the places he visited, Massialas says he enjoyed Santorini and Mykonos but favored Naxos, which is more peaceful but just as beautiful.

Aside from his travels to Greece and other parts of the world for competitions, Massialas has managed to balance sports with his academic career, and hopes that will continue now that he has entered his freshman year at Stanford University. “In high school I was able to balance everything very well, so hopefully the same thing will apply here at Stanford where there is a higher academic standard,” Massialas says. Currently undecided, the young fencer is leaning toward a major in mechanical engineering.

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(Photos from Getty Images)