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‘A Dream Come True’: Former Crimson Fencer Excited to Compete on the World’s Highest Stage

Mitchell Saron reached the highest heights in fencing for the Crimson. Now, he'll represent the U.S. in Paris this summer.
Mitchell Saron reached the highest heights in fencing for the Crimson. Now, he'll represent the U.S. in Paris this summer. By Gábor Csapó

Dominant Harvard fencer Mitchell Saron ’23, who was a three-season standout for the men’s fencing team, is set to compete for the U.S. at the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris.

Despite having taken a year off to train for his qualification, Saron’s immediate emotion was still shock.

“It hasn’t really sunk in yet. It’s the Paris 2024 Olympic Games!” Saron said. “This achievement is a dream come true, one I’ve had since I was nine years old and first picked up a saber. I was lucky enough to attend the 2012 and 2016 Olympics to see the top saber fencers in action in real life. And now, it feels so surreal to have chased this dream and see it coming to fruition. Even after the official announcement, I think it’ll take about a week for the magnitude of this accomplishment to really register with me,” the soon-to-be Olympian added.

Saron’s tenure with the Crimson’s program was abridged due to the cancellation of the 2020-2021 season as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, but despite this setback, the fencer made the most of his time in Cambridge. Saron earned first-team All-Ivy honors three times, one first-team All-American designation and one second-team All-American honor, as well as an NCAA team title.

Since graduating, Saron has continued to dominate. He has proved successful on both the team and individual stages, with his most recent title coming last weekend after a victory at the Men’s Sabre World Cup in Budapest.

“Most of my qualifying points were earned in the first half of the season, when I wasn’t battling injuries,” Saron explained. “The final qualifying tournament of the season in Budapest at the end of March was a big one since it’s an Olympic year. Every fencer there understood the stakes, and you could see the hope and anxiety in the air. When I mathematically qualified for Team USA — as in, I had enough points for no other USA fencers to pass me in the rankings — it was a mixture of relief and excitement. Those feelings really drove me in the final team event the next day, when Eli, Colin, Filip, and I were able to win gold for Team USA together. It was incredible,” Saron added, referring to past and future Crimson fencers Eli Dershwitz ’19, Colin Heathcock ’28, and Filip Dolegiewicz ’23.

But, that success came from huge dedication. Saron had to completely change his attitude, diet and lifestyle. After his senior year, Saron stopped drinking alcohol and switched to a diet that emphasizes grass-fed and wild-caught animals as well as fermented vegetables. Since Saron was also fencing and working out every day, he doubled down on recovery strategies like breath work, ice baths, the sauna, and focusing on his mental health.

“Each of these changes required discipline, research, and a willingness to listen to my body's responses,” Saron said of this lifestyle overhaul. “The improvements in my performance, mental clarity, and overall health have been huge. All of these changes took sacrifice, but it’s been more than worth it. This holistic approach to training and recovery not only prepared me for competition but has also fundamentally transformed my approach to health and wellness. I’m literally changed forever thanks to this Olympic journey."

Even with all the sacrifice, there was a point where Olympic qualification looked unattainable. Plagued by injury, Saron was unable to compete for the US team in the international tournament last November in Algeria.

“The thumb injury on my fencing hand was the most significant setback, especially because as it turns out, you really need your thumb to handle a saber,” Saron said, explaining how significant of a setback he faced. “After consulting with doctors and reviewing the MRIs of my thumb, I was advised against fencing not only because I was debilitated, but there was a serious risk of permanent damage. I was so frustrated. Given the stakes and potential of an Olympic qualifying year, my orthopedic surgeon offered me a challenge: to continue fencing without using my thumb at all."

Instead of giving up, the New Jersey native continued to fence, adapting to his injury.

“My coach and I developed a technique that involved holding my saber like a tennis racket—that’s not how you’re supposed to hold a saber, but this is what we had to work with. The adjustment meant I had to strengthen other aspects of my performance, like my footwork and speed, which was a blessing in disguise. I secured a 3rd place finish at the National Tournament in December and a 20th place at the Grand Prix in Orleans. I was really proud of this, given my compromised state. Despite the challenges, by the end of 2023, I had managed to lead in the USA points-wise.”

But, despite leading the USA in points, Saron still was not feeling 100%.

“It wasn't until the Team Event in Budapest – where I mathematically qualified for the Olympics – that I truly began to feel like myself again when fencing. Winning the gold medal with the team was a great testament to finally being in fencing shape after so many months. I was finally back,” Saron said, looking back on his triumph at last week’s team event in Hungary.

In the immediate future, Saron continues to focus on his recovery, training and mental health. He has three tournaments until his Olympic qualification: Salt Lake City in April, and the Seoul Grand Prix and Madrid World Cup in May.

“This period leading up to the Olympics is about fine-tuning every aspect of my preparation — physical, mental, and technical — to ensure I arrive in Paris in the best shape possible, ready to compete at the highest level with my team and to honor this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Every training session, every meal, every recovery protocol, and every tournament is a step towards realizing the Olympic dream.”

Catch Saron and the rest of the Olympic fencers square off between July 27th and August 4th in Paris, France.

—Staff writer Katharine A. Forst can be reached at katharine.forst@thecrimson.com.


—Staff writer Thomas G. Harris can be reached at thomas.harris@thecrimson.com.

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