New-York Historical Society's Bill Shannon Dictionary of New York Sports

Category Archives: Fencing

Hugh Alessandroni


Hugh Alessandroni (Fencing.  Born, New York, NY, Jan. 15, 1908; died, Little Silver, NJ, Mar. 30, 1989.)  A bronze medalist at the 1932 Olympiad, Hugh Vincent Alessandroni was the top American foil fencer of the 1930s.  Also a member of the U.S. team at Berlin in 1936, Alessandroni fenced at Columbia but really came into his own with the Fencers Club of New York.  Following his graduation in 1929, he won nine national foil championships, including individual titles in 1934 and 1936.  Alessandroni was a member of the national foil team champions five times (1931-33, 1935-36) and also was the foil member of the three-weapon team champions in 1932 and 1935.

Norman Armitage


Norman Armitage (Fencing.  Born, Albany, NY, Jan. 1, 1907; died, New York, NY, Mar. 14, 1972.)  One of the greatest sabremen ever produced in America, Dr. Norman Cudworth Armitage was the U.S. champion in his weapon 10 times in 16 years.  His career was so distinguished that Armitage was twice chosen as the standardbearer for U.S. squads at the Olympic Games, carrying the flag in the opening ceremonies in both Helsinki (1952) and Melbourne (1956). Armitage began fencing as an undergraduate at Columbia and made the U.S. squad for the 1928 Olympiad at Amsterdam.  He was to appear in every Summer Olympics held in the next 28 years (1936, 1948, 1952, 1956).  After his graduation in 1927, Armitage did graduate work at Columbia to earn degrees in science and chemical engineering.  He won his first national championship in sabre in 1930.  He was the national individual champion in 1934, 1935, and 1936 while earning a law degree at New York University, which was granted in 1937.  Two years later, he won his fifth national sabre title.  Armitage was a member of the U.S. national three-weapon championship teams for the Fencers Club of New York four times (1929, 1932, 1933, and 1935), the team sabre champions in 1934 and the team epee champions in 1939.  In 1940, he began a run of four straight individual national titles in sabre and, after losing the final in 1944, won his 10th and final individual championship in 1945.

Albie Axelrod


Albie Axelrod (Fencing.  Born, The Bronx, NY, Feb. 21, 1921; died, The Bronx, NY, Feb. 24, 2004.)  An N.C.A.A. champion in 1948 while fencing for City College, Albert Axelrod became only the fourth medalist in the sport for the U.S. at the Olympics in 1960.  Axelrod, while fencing for the Fencers Club, was the national foil champion in 1955, 1958, 1960, and 1970.  All told, he won 15 national team and individual foil titles.  Axelrod was part of five consecutive U.S. Olympic fencing teams, although he medalled only at the Rome Games (1960).  Except for three years of naval service during World War II, he was ranked in the top 10 in foil every year from 1942-70.

Katy Bilodeaux


Katy Bilodeaux (Fencing.  Born, Boston, MA, March 17, 1965.)  Doubtless the finest woman fencer ever from a metropolitan area college, Caitlin Bilodeaux came to Columbia from a Concord, Mass., family of athletes and began fencing at age nine.  Bilodeaux became the first woman ever to win the national collegiate championship twice (1985 and 1987) at a time when women fenced only foil (epee and sabre have since been added).  She was a four-time junior national champion at Carlisle H.S. in Concord, and was an immediate sensation at Columbia with a 61-1 record as a freshman.  Although Bilodeaux was 56-0 during the 1985-86 regular season, she failed to defend her national title, losing to Notre Dame’s Molly Sullivan in the final.  In 1987, she won her second championship by defeating Sullivan, 8-1, in the last bout.  Bilodeaux’s two older sisters, Becky (Cornell) and Mary (Temple) both earned All-America mention as well, creating perhaps a unique family distinction.

Hugo Castello


Hugo Castello (Fencing.  Born, LaPlata, Argentina, Apr. 22, 1914; died, New York, NY, Mar. 28, 1994.)  After being a three-time I.F.A. foil champion (1935-37) at N.Y.U., Hugo Castello coached the Violets fencers to a record 10 N.C.A.A. team championships.  Castello succeeded his father Julio (who had coached N.Y.U. since 1927) in 1947 and served 32 years as head coach (1947-75, 1977-81).  N.C.A.A. fencing championships began in 1942 and N.Y.U. became the dominant team in the post-World War II era.  N.Y.U. tied with Columbia for the 1954 team championship and then won the title outright in 1957, 1960-61, 1966-67, 1970-71, 1973, and 1974.  Castello also coached fencers who brought home 20 individual N.C.A.A. firsts, including three-weapon sweeps in 1960 and 1961.  He also served as a member of the U.S. Olympic Fencing Committee and an assistant Olympic coach in 1960, 1964, and 1968.

Bob Cottingham


Bob Cottingham (Fencing.  Born, Orange, NJ, Apr. 19, 1966.)  A Columbia fencer, Robert Cottingham was the N.C.A.A. men’s sabre champion in 1988 as the Lions won their second straight N.C.A.A. title.  With Marc Kent winning the foil and Jon Normile the epee that year, Columbia became the first school since 1961 to sweep the three weapons in N.C.A.A. championship competition.

Jose deCapriles


Jose deCapriles (Fencing.  Born, Mexico City, Mexico, Feb. 13, 1912; died, New York, NY, Feb. 21, 1969.)  One of the great names in American fencing, Jose R. deCapriles was also N.Y.U.’s first national champion.  In 1933, as a senior at N.Y.U., deCapriles won the Intercollegiate Fencing Association championship.  A high school basketball player, he learned the sport at N.Y.U. and captained the team his last three years (1931-33).  deCapriles (and his older brother Miguel) fenced for New York’s Salle Santelli and Fencing Club until 1960.  He was on the U.S. Olympic team in 1936, 1948, and 1952.  In 1938, deCapriles was the national epee champion.  But, unlike most fencers, he excelled in all three weapons, and that year ranked fourth in the sabre and fifth in the foil.  In 1946, deCapriles was the foil champion, lost the sabre final, and finished third in the epee.  deCapriles, who came to the U.S. in 1929, founded American Fencer magazine in 1949, and served as chairman of the U.S. Olympic Fencing Committee (1953-57).

Gustavus Kirby


Gustavus Kirby (Track and fencing.  Born, Philadelphia, PA, Jan. 22, 1874; died, Bedford Hills, NY, Mar. 28, 1956.)  In 1896, Gustavus Town Kirby was an I.F.A. fencing champion, but it was as an administrator in track and field that he made his greatest contributions.  Kirby ran track at Columbia (1893-95) before attending law school there.  As a senior (1895), he helped organize the first committee to send a U.S. team to the revived Olympics in Athens, Greece, the following year.  Kirby was to serve on every U.S. Olympic Committee through 1956.  He was president of the U.S.O.C. in 1920 and its chairman in 1924.  Kirby served as an official at literally hundreds of track meets, indoors and out, in the New York area for over 60 years and was chairman of the advisory committee for the I.C.4A. for 32 years (1896-1928).

Jim Murray


Jim Murray (Fencing. Born, Philadelphia, PA, 1871; died, New York, NY, Jan. 28, 1957.) Considered by many historians to be the first American-born fencing coach of international significance, James Murray Jr., coached at the New York Athletic Club for 64 years and taught the Columbia varsity for 50. For three decades, he journeyed annually to Paris to meet the best European fencers. Several of his Columbia and N.Y.A.C. fencers became U.S. Olympians and one Lion swordsman (John Purroy Mitchell) became mayor of New York. He also tutored for many years at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in the days when Shakespearean action was a staple of the Broadway theatre, teaching sword work to such great stars as John and Lionel Barrymore and John Drew. Murray began his teaching career as a boxing instructor in his native Philadelphia where his father had been a boxer of some note. He came to New York in 1891 as an instructor at the NYAC. Four years later, he was hired as an assistant to Columbia coach Armond Jacoby, whom he succeeded in 1898. As head coach of the Lions, Murray coached 365 dual matches, winning 192, losing 163 with 10 draws. From 1918 to 1920, his teams were 16-2 and from 1935 to 1937, the Lions won 28, lost five and tied one. At a Columbia dinner honoring Murray in May 1948, it was established that over 2,500 students had fenced under his direction at the school. He retired that October but continued with the N.Y.A.C. for another six years. Murray coached several teams that won the Intercollegiate Fencing Association, then considered the national championship, his last coming in 1942.

Albertson Post


Albertson Post (Fencing.  Born, New York, NY, 1866; died, New York, NY, Jan. 23, 1938.)  One of the most versatile fencers in American history, Albertson Van Zo Post was a member of the New York Fencers Club who excelled in all three weapons.  He was the national foil champion in 1895 and the national epee champion in 1896.  Then he switched to the sabre, winning the national title in that weapon three straight years – 1901 to 1903.  At the 1904 Olympics in St. Louis, Mo., Post won a gold medal in single sticks competition, a silver in foil and a bronze in sabre.

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The Bill Shannon Biographical Dictionary of New York Sports is an open database of sports biographies maintained by Jordan Sprechman and Marty Appel. We welcome public and scholarly contributions and suggestions.

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A prolific author, wire service sports reporter, long time Major League Baseball official scorer, football statistician, sports museum founder, theatrical agency owner and public ... read more

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