For many, going from piano lessons to fencing at a
world-class level might seem unlikely.But that's just what happened for Quinn
Crum, a first-year foilist on the women's fencing team, though the process was
not that simple—but it was close. After quitting piano lessons, Crum wanted to
learn the harmonica, but her mother thought otherwise. Instead, six-year-old
Crum found herself at a summer fencing camp after becoming intrigued by a
demonstration at her school.
Twelve years later, it is safe to say that fencing was the
right choice. Since Crum was twelve years old, she has participated in a
variety of national and international competitions and has already compiled an
impressive resume, which includes a gold medal at the 2013 Junior Olympics and
a seventh-place finish at the 2015 Division I Nationals. Earlier this semester,
she competed at the World Cup in Croatia, and has begun to set her sights on
potentially competing in the 2020 or 2024 Olympics, although both are long-term
Before making her way to Morningside Heights, Crum first
fenced for the Rhode Island Fencing Academy & Club, where Coach Alex Ripa
recognized her potential early on in her time with the club. Ripa, whom
Columbia head coach Michael Aufrichtig describes as "one of the best
developmental coaches in the U.S" and recently received the USFCA Coach of
the Year Award, almost immediately placed Crum on the highest-level training
"I really didn't like at first because it was all these
older kids and I was so small, but I think that it helped a lot because my
skills progressed a lot more," Crum said.
Ripa was responsible for first steering Crum towards
international competition, but was also instrumental in refining a unique
aspect of her approach to competition—her tendency to "fence angry."
"I don't like it when referees make wrong calls,"
Crum said. "I really had to figure out how to harness that [anger] and not
let it affect me negatively."
With Ripa's help, Crum incorporated meditation and breathing
techniques to calm herself down, and developed a new attitude that drove her to
even more success: "I'm just going to make it easy for you to give me the
Through conversation with Ripa, Aufrichtig became aware of
Crum's unique style during recruitment and immediately highlighted Crum and
foil teammate first-year Iman Blow as his "top two woman foil
Though she was also recruited at Notre Dame, Crum chose
Columbia because of the school's excellent academics, but also because of the
opportunity to be a member of a program that she described simply as "the
The Lions have enjoyed consistent success at both the team
and individual levels. They took home the 14th NCAA Championship in program
history last year, while the women's foil team alone currently boasts two 2015
NCAA All-Americans in seniors Jackie Dubrovich (second team) and Margaret Lu
As a result, Crum's first year has been partially spent
adjusting to the extremely high level of talent surrounding her, but she is
excited by the opportunity.
"Learning from the older people on the team [is] going
to help me find my rhythm here," Crum said.
According to Aufrichtig, this 'rhythm' is something some
first-year fencers have a tough time finding, as they look to balance academics
and the demands of a competitive fencing program.
Aufrichtig also sees a bright future ahead for Crum.
"I feel she could make the 2020 Olympics, maybe the
2024 since you get that long life in fencing, but either way, she's definitely
going to become a better fencer and she's going to get one of the best
educations that someone can get," he said. However, for the time being,
Crum's goals concern Columbia's bid for a NCAA Championship repeat. "I'm
hoping that the team can come together and win NCAAs … I might not be fencing
at it, but we all contributed and I think that that'd be a sweet ending to the
year to win it again," Crum said.
As her first season with the Lions nears its end, a quote
from her grandfather continues to drive Crum's approach both to individual
competition and to her role on Columbia's team: "No matter what you do,
always be the best."
"I think that this team is the best," Crum said.
"And so I have to keep my training up, my mental game up so that they can
remain the best."