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The Full-Court Press: Valentin Staller '12

By Alex Sopko, Crimson Staff Writer

Meet junior Valentin Staller. As a Harvard fencer, Staller had never won an Ivy League championship. But last weekend Staller beat Adam Fields from Yale in the men’s sabre, and freshman teammate Mike Raynis narrowly defeated Yale’s Peter Cohen. Staller finally had his championship trophy.  Maybe it was the eggs or the indie rock—either way, in this exclusive interview with The Full Court Press, Stellar explains why fencing is cool, and leaves us with a mystery: why was the fencing team ad-boarded in 2005? Every week The Full Court Press gives you the sort of personal scoop that you’re not likely to hear at a typical press conference.

Name: Valentin Staller

Year: 2012

Stats: As a freshman, Staller started his Harvard career with a bang, claiming silver at the NCAA Regionals, and placing 15th at NCAA Championships in the men’s sabre event. Last year, Staller took it a step further finishing 6th in the nation at NCAA Championships after winning 15 bouts.

He may be an Ivy League Champion, but how well will he handle these questions?

1.Typical pre-game meal.

I always try to eat eggs beforehand, and I've been getting really into fruit lately. I don't know if this counts, but I also always take Ibuprofen before a competition.

2. List four songs you listen to before matches to get pumped up.

Here are some songs that have been in the rotation lately:

"Mr. November" by The National. Pumps me up for life.

"Your Hand in Mine" by Explosions in the Sky. This one's sweet because it reminds me of Friday Night Lights (TV Show, sorry), and that really pumps me up.  Coach Taylor has taught me a lot about myself.

"Hip Hop is Dead" by Nas. Can't say I really know what it's about, but it's still pretty intense.

"Drain the Blood" by the Rural Alberta Advantage.  A random indie rock band with a cool name and great drums.

3. Favorite team to fence against and why?

My favorite team to fence is probably Princeton, because it's always really intense. I don't know how it happened, but we developed a pretty serious rivalry with them since I got here.  Before that, the team to beat used to be Columbia, so it's funny how it switched.

4. Most ridiculous thing that has taken place in your team's locker room.

Not too much ridiculous stuff happens. Just a lot of hugging, mostly.  I think all the crazy things happened before the whole team got ad-boarded in 2005.

5. Most embarrassing moment you've had fencing.

My most embarrassing moment as a member of the fencing team was probably when I participated in the SAAC Bench Press for Breast Cancer competition last year. Some of our guys couldn't make it, so I was bumped up to the A-squad at the last minute.  I definitely benched less than anyone else in the room.  I did get a sweet t-shirt out of it, though.

6. Animal that best represents your style of play and why.

I think that I'm the hare that lost to the tortoise. I run into problems when I get antsy and rush too much.

7. Most ridiculous thing you have heard a fan yell at a match you were in.

See, fencing is a cool sport because it's the fencers themselves who yell the craziest things, and we have some crazy, passionate guys on the team. Just Youtube it. It's pretty strange to see for the first time. I think it originated before there was electric scoring equipment; people would basically need to convince the referee that they scored a touch.

8. If you could play for another sports team at Harvard, which would it be and why?

If I could play another sport, it would probably be women's squash. Winning a national championship is pretty amazing.

9. Position you would play in Quidditch.

I'm told that I'd be a chaser. I think they score a lot.

10. If you could go on a date with any professional athlete, who would it be and where would you take him/her?

I'd probably want to take out Jeremy Lin to dinner. He's kind of a hero of mine.

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