Orban, Alex

  Born in Hungary. AFLA national sabre champion (1965, '69, '70, '71, '72). Member, U.S. Olympic team 1968, '72, '76). He is the only U.S. sabreur to win an international 'A' tournament, in Lodz, Poland (1968).

 Alex Orban

Spotlight is on Alex Orban

by Jack Keane

Two weeks after he had become the first American fencer ever to win a major European tournament, Alex Orban of the NYAC found himself fencing a nameless opponent on the fourth floor strips of this club "Against Orban," said the chief judge. "But it was my attack," mildly complained the lithe internationalist.

"Uh, uh," said the judge a former sword fighter of such mediocrity he was secretly labeled as a "pigeon" by any opponent possessing even a shade of finesse in the art. "You started the attack but you hesitated and he beat you to the punch."

Orban shrugged. He has been through this scene many times. He is America's most misunderstood athletic talent.

World Class Fencer
Orban is a star. An international star. He can do everything that ever was intended to be done with a saber. And he probably can do it faster than anybody. He is generally acknowledged to be one of the three fastest, if not the fastest, man in the world. But all this doesn't seem to be good enough to convince the short sighted men who judge his fencing. They persist in making Orban conform to their parochial conception of the art. They are, for the most part, men who have never witnessed, much less participated in, international contests in their lives. They tend to spend endless hours arguing the technicalities of some obscurely written rule. Their theatre is usually the college ranks or perhaps even high school. But judging the sons of Yale or Harvard or Columbia is not the same as judging Orban. He boggles their conception of fencing and defies their synapses. And because he is astoundingly assured he pays the price for forcing tough decisions of these lesser men in the sport. They often vote against him and give him a lecture to boot. 

A Matter at Style
His fencing and his style are even too much for some Americans who hold the revered international judging licenses. These are last year's licenses, Orban is this year's fencer. And so he struggles for understanding from men who will never understand because to understand would be to deny all the things they have so carefully and wrongfully mentally structured over the years.

But there is escape for Orban. Europe. They understand him there. The Russians understand him because he beats them all the time. The last time he fenced them, he defeated their entire team of four. The French understand him and the Italians and the Germans and the whole gaggle of the world's elite. This is where Orban does what he can do and it is recognized. And appreciated. When he won in Poland in 1968, Jean Cottard, the renowned French master, said, "Orban showed every action there is to show in fencing in perfect style." Alex Orban looks as if he was bred at the Mendelian Institute of Heredity for Fencers. He stands a shade under five feet, eleven inches and is a svelte 153 pounds. His body is well formed but it is his legs that tell the story. They are fencer s' legs, shaped in musculature to his art.

Fled in Uprising
When he was fourteen, in 1954, Orban was introduced to fencing by a schoolmate. The schoolmate lasted three months; Orban went on to greatness. At sixteen, he was the youngest fencer ever to achieve first-class ranking in Hungary. He was labeled the coming star of the Magyar squads.

But the 1956 uprising changed all that. Alex decided to leave, arriving in California early in 1957. After a season in Los Angeles he left for San Francisco to join the famed Pannonia AC, then under the maestroship of George Piller, the fabled Hungarian master who also had decided not to return to Hungary after the Melbourne Olympics. At the 1960 National championships, Alex earned a Gold Medal with the great Pannonia team. The opponent, ironically, was the NYAC.  Then came three years of military service and finally his entry onto the NYAC squad in 1965.

National Champion Thrice
He started out with a bang winning the national championship and leading the team to victory. Since then, he has won the individual title in 1969 and 1970 and has been the leader of the saber team in an undefeated skein reaching back to ' 65.  "The New York AC is the only club where fencing actually exists," says Orban. "Sure, there's a lot of what looks like fencing in other clubs but there is no feeling of what the sport is basically about. Here we have athletes who are reaching for the essence of the sport. That is what makes the difference. Here we have real fencing because here we have a situation in which the athlete can develop." The highest influences on Orban's career were his early teacher in Budapest, as well as George Piller, and the club's Olympic coach, Csaba Elthes. "I have been very lucky that I always had only the best teachers . I don' t think I could have gone this far without them."

Future World Champion?
At the age of 31, considered to be the start of a vintage period for a saber fencer, Alex Orban feels he might have a chance to be world champion. With his club and his coaches and his teammates behind him, he feels the necessary mental support. "When the calls don't go right, it's nice to know there are some other people around who know different. It saves me when I'm down."

SWORDPLAY: The eleventh annual Martini & Rossi tournament will be held in the club's gym on April 16, 17 and 18. The committee is expecting over fifteen nations to attend, with Russia among the probables. The World Junior

Championships at Notre Dame a week earlier should guarantee a large and enthusiastic field.


Men's Saber World Champions

Gold Medalists
2001, Ivan Lee, Colin Parker, Jason Rogers, Timothy Hagamen, JMST

Silver Medalists
2001, Ivan Lee, JMS
2001, Timothy Hagaman, CMS
2003, Adam Crompton, Patrick Ghattas, Mike Momtselidze, Jason Rogers, JMST

Bronze Medalists
1994, Terrence Lasker, CMS
1998, Ivan Lee, CMS
1999, Colin Parker, CMS
2000, Ivan Lee, JMS
2000, Jason Rogers, CMS
2000, Mariel Zagunis, CWS
2001, Colin Parker, JMS
2002, Luther Clement, CMS
2002, Mike Momtselidze, JMS
2004, Timothy Hagamen, Alex Krul, Mike Momtselidze, Max Williams, JMST
2006, Raskyrie Davidson, CMS

Men's Saber Record Holders

17 Titles
Norman Armitage: 1929 (out), 1930, 1930 (out), 1932 (out), 1933 (out), 1934, 1935, 1935 (out), 1936, 1939, 1939 (out), 1940, 1940 (out), 1941, 1942, 1943, 1945

13 Titles
Peter Westbrook: 1974, 1975, 1979, 1980, 1981, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1988, 1989, 1995

8 Titles
Dr. John Huffman: 1931, 1932, 1933, 1934 (out), 1936 (out), 1937, 1938, 1938 (out)

7 Titles
Tibor Nyilas: 1944, 1946, 1950, 1951, 1952, 1953, 1956

5 Titles
August Anderson: 1904, 1906, 1907, 1911, 1913
Alex Orban: 1965, 1969, 1970, 1971, 1972

4 Titles
Charles Bothner: 1891, 1895, 1896, 1897
Leo Nunes: 1922, 1926, 1928 (out), 1929

3 Titles
Albertson Van Zo Post: 1901, 1902, 1903
Sherman Hall: 1915, 1916, 1920
Danial Magay: 1957, 1958, 1961

2 Titles
Graeme Hammond: 1893, 1894
Eugene Hamori: 1960, 1963
Alfonso Morales: 1966, 1967
Thomas Losonczy: 1976, 1977
Michael Lofton: 1991, 1992
Akhnaten Spencer-El: 1999, 2000
Keeth Smart: 2002, 2004

1 Titles
Hildreth Bloodgood: 1888
Luis Franke: 1889
George Heintz: 1890
Rudolph Haubold: 1892
Georges Kavanagh: 1899
John Erving: 1900
Kirk Johnson: 1905
George Postgate: 1908
Alfred Sauer: 1909
Joseph Shaw: 1910
Charles Bill: 1912
Hubert Van Blijenburgh: 1914
Chauncey McPherson: 1921
John Gignoux: 1924
Joseph Vince: 1925
Harold Van Buskirk: 1927 (out)
Peter Bruder: 1931 (out)
Irving Cantor: 1937 (out)
Miguel de Capriles: 1941 (out)
James Flynn: 1947
Dean Cetrulo: 1948
Umberto De Martino: 1949
George Worth: 1954
Dick Dyer: 1955
Thomas Orley: 1959
Michael D’Asaro: 1962
Attila Keresztes: 1964
Jack Keane: 1968
Paul Apostol: 1973
Stanley Lekach: 1978
Steve Mormando: 1987
Robert Cottingham: 1990
David Mandel: 1993
John Friedberg: 1994
Adam Skarbonkiewicz: 1996
Terrence Lasker: 1997
Patrick Durkan: 1998

*"out" refers to United States Outdoor
National Foil competitions, held twice
in AFLA/USFA history.

Men's Saber Olympians

Men's Individual Sabre
1904 William Grebe, Silver
1904 Albertson Van Zo Post, Bronze
1984 Peter Westbrook, Bronze

Men's Team Sabre
1948 Norman Armitage, Bronze
1948 George Worth, Bronze
1948 Tibor Nyilas, Bronze
1948 Dean Cetrulo, Bronze
1948 Miguel de Capriles, Bronze
1948 James Flynn, Bronze

Best Non-Medaling Olympic Performances

4th Place MST 1932
Peter Bruder, John Huffman, Ralph Faulkner, Norman Armitage, Nickolas Muray, Harold Van Buskirk

4th Place MST 1952
Norman Cudworth Armitage, Miguel Angel deCapriles, Tibor Andrew Nyilas, Alex E. Treves, George V. Worth, Allan Sidney Kwartler

4th Place MST 1960
Allan Sidney Kwartler, George V. Worth, Michael Anthony D'Asaro, Alfonso Morales, Tibor Andrew Nyilas, Richard Rex Dyer

4th Place MST 2004
Ivan Lee, Jason Rogers, Keeth Smart

5th Place MS 1948
George V. Worth

5th Place MST 1920
Edwin Gaines Fullinweider, Joseph Brooks Bloodgood Parker, C. Bradford Fraley, Arthur St. Clair Lyon, Frederick John Cunningham, Claiborne Jay Walker, John William Dimond, Roscoe Leroy Bowman

5th Place MST 1936
Peter Bruder, John Randolph Huffman, Norman Cudworth Armitage, Miguel Angel deCapriles, Bela De Nagy, Samuel Thompson Stewart, Jr.

6th Place MS 1932
John Randolph Huffman

6th Place MST 1984

7th Place MS 1948
Tibor Andrew Nyilas

US National Men's Saber Champions


1888 Hildreth Bloodgood
1889 Luis Franke
1890 George Heintz
1891 Charles Bothner
1892 Rudolph Haubold
1893 Graeme Hammond
1894 Graeme Hammond
1895 Charles Bothner
1896 Charles Bothner
1897 Charles Bothner
1899 Georges Kavanagh
1900 John Erving
1901 Albertson Van Zo Post
1902 Albertson Van Zo Post
1903 Albertson Van Zo Post
1904 August Anderson
1905 Kirk Johnson
1906 August Anderson
1907 August Anderson
1908 George Postgate
1909 Alfred Sauer
1910 Joseph Shaw
1911 August Anderson
1912 Charles Bill
1913 August Anderson
1914 Hubert Van Blijenburgh
1915 Sherman Hall
1916 Sherman Hall
1917 Arthur Lyon
1919 Arthur Lyon
1920 Sherman Hall
1921 Chauncey McPherson
1922 Leo Nunes
1923 Leon Schoonmaker
1924 John Gignoux
1925 Joseph Vince
1926 Leo Nunes
1927 Nickolas Muray
1927 Harold Van Buskirk(OUT)
1928 Nickolas Muray
1928 Leo Nunes(OUT)
1929 Leo Nunes
1929 Norman Armitage(OUT)
1930 Norman Armitage
1930 Norman Armitage(OUT)
1931 Johnny Huffman
1931 Peter Bruder(OUT)
1932 Johnny Huffman
1932 Norman Armitage (OUT)
1933 Johnny Huffman
1933 Norman Armitage (OUT)
1934 Norman Armitage
1934 Johnny Huffman (OUT)
1935 Norman Armitage
1935 Norman Armitage (OUT)
1936 Norman Armitage
1936 Johnny Huffman (OUT)
1937 Johnny Huffman
1937 Irving Cantor (OUT)
1938 Johnny Huffman
1938 Johnny Huffman (OUT)
1939 Norman Armitage
1939 Norman Armitage (OUT)
1940 Norman Armitage
1940 Norman Armitage (OUT)
1941 Norman Armitage
1941 Miguel deCapriles (OUT)
1942 Norman Armitage
1943 Norman Armitage
1944 Tibor Nyilas
1945 Norman Armitage
1946 Tibor Nyilas
1947 James Flynn
1948 Dean Cetrulo
1949 Umberto De Martino
1950 Tibor Nyilas
1951 Tibor Nyilas
1952 Tibor Nyilas
1953 Tibor Nyilas
1954 George Worth
1955 Dick Dyer
1956 Tibor Nyilas
1957 Daniel Magay
1958 Daniel Magay
1959 Thomas Orley
1960 Eugene Hamori
1961 Daniel Magay
1962 Michael D'Asaro
1963 Eugene Hamori
1964 Attila Keresztes
1965 Alex Orban
1966 Alfonso Morales
1967 Alfonso Morales
1968 Jack Keane
1969 Alex Orban
1970 Alex Orban
1971 Alex Orban
1972 Alex Orban
1973 Paul Apostol
1974 Peter Westbrook
1975 Peter Westbrook
1976 Thomas Losonczy
1977 Thomas Losonczy
1978 Stanley Lekach
1979 Peter Westbrook
1980 Peter Westbrook
1981 Peter Westbrook
1982 Peter Westbrook
1983 Peter Westbrook
1984 Peter Westbrook
1985 Peter Westbrook
1986 Peter Westbrook
1987 Steven Mormando
1988 Peter Westbrook
1989 Peter Westbrook
1990 Robert Cottingham
1991 Michael Lofton
1992 Michael Lofton
1993 David Mandel
1994 John Friedberg
1995 Peter Westbrook
1996 Adam Skarbonkiewicz
1997 Terrence Lasker
1998 Patrick Durkan
1999 Akhnaten Spencer-El
2000 Akhnaten Spencer-El
2001 Ivan Lee
2002 Keeth Smart
2003 Ivan Lee
2004 Keeth Smart
2005 Ivan Lee
2006 Ivan Lee

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