CENTRAL POINT, Ore. — The clinks of two foils, the retreat and the attack. These are the components of Debra Allen’s life 30 years ago and today.
“Fencing never really dies,” Lencin Carnighan said. “It takes a while to get back into your groove again, but fencing’s one of those things. It’s like riding a bike.”
After three decades away from the sport, and with the urging of local coaches like Carnighan and Ron Kilby, Allen is once again riding the bike.
“I just wanted to do it because I love fencing, and it’s great exercise and I always thought it would be good to get back into it,” Allen said. “So they said come on and come play. I’m like okay.”
“It was very easy to get Debra back into it because she always, and continues to have, a love of fencing, and even though she was out of the game for a long time, back in the 70’s, she was a nationally known fencer,” Kilby said.
Even though Allen got back in to fencing “just to come play,” it quickly evolved in to more than just recreation.
“My old fencing teacher said, ‘hey, you know, they have this thing where veterans can fence.’ I said, ‘really?’ He goes, ‘yeah, you should do it,'” Allen said.
That was in January. By April, Allen was competing in the North American Cup. In June she finished third in veteran women’s foil at the National Championships. That qualified her for the Pan-American Games in Aruba this August.
“Thirty years ago my goal was to win the Pan American Games. That was always my goal,” Allen said. “It wasn’t to make the Olympic team. I mean, it was to win the Pan American Games, and I can’t believe that that door is open and I have the opportunity. That’s just… It’s crazy.”
“I knew the talent was still there,” Kilby said. “It was just going to be a matter of life priorities and the will to make the training commitment.”
Despite working full-time as a physician’s assistant, Allen is committed to putting in the hard work.
“I believe in hard work over talent any day,” Allen said. “My kids often ask me, ‘what are we good at?’ Nothing. You have to just put the time in.”
“This is not the last you’ll hear of Debra fencing at this level,” Carnighan said. “I think she will be a world champion here shortly.”
“I would love to win the Pan American Games. I would love to do that,” Allen said. “I would love to win all three weapons. I think big. Somebody’s got to win. They’ve got to beat me to win.”