4-time US foil champion, Olympian, World Championships Bronze medalist
Cliff Bayer, a first year Wharton MBA and former Olympic fencing superstar, recently visited 250 children at two schools in the Bronx in New York City to deliver speeches about leadership and his experiences in Olympic sports. Bayer delivered the speech just after the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics. He aimed to help serve as a role model for these children who come from poor, single parent families that live in drug-infested areas.
“My goal was to serve as a role model for these kids. I felt that if I could touch just one or two kids, than my day was totally justified there.” said Bayer. “The kids had a lot of questions. They really wanted to know what it took to make it to the Olympics and what the Olympic trials were like, for fencing and other sports.”
Given his outstanding athletic record and his status as a former Olympian, Bayer is a well-qualified candidate to speak to children. Bayer was the youngest national champion in men’s foil fencing in United States history. In the year 2000, he ranked first in the United States and tenth worldwide – pretty impressive for someone who is still a full-time student at the University of Pennsylvania.
As his career progressed to its apex in the year 2000, Bayer achieved some high level media coverage on MTV and Fox, a full photo spread in Vanity Fair magazine (shot by Annie Leibovitz), and comprehensive articles in the Sports section of the New York Times. He also solicited and received corporate sponsorship from Blade-Fencing to cover his sport-related expenses. In fact, Bayer’s appeal made him the only fencer to have received sponsorship for his fencing career.
Now that he has retired from his fencing career, at the age of 24, he is focused on his studies at Wharton, his involvement in the Ethics Committee, and his professional plans. This summer, he will work in investment banking at Bear Stearns and looks forward to working in a dynamic, challenging, team-oriented Wall Street environment.
He feels that he can leverage the lessons he learned about leadership and teamwork on the Olympic team within the teams he encounters in investment banking and beyond. He presents himself as a mature, young adult and is aware of the challenges that he may face. However, given his experience, he feels comfortable facing those challenges head-on.
Outside of Wharton, Bayer is still affiliated with other Olympic organizations. He is a member of the Board of ‘NYC 2012’, a body working to win the bid to bring the Summer Olympics to New York City in the year 2012. This November, he hopes that New York City will win the US bid against four other competing American cities. Later, in 2005, the US Olympic Committee will compare international bids to domestic ones to make a decision. Finally, Bayer is also on the executive committee of the US Fencing Association that creates essential guidelines and support for current fencers.
Bayer’s accomplishments both at college and international level were the basis of the honor. Fueling his success were Bayer’s international success and his title as the 1997 NCAA foil champion.
He has represented the United States at multiple international events, including the 1996 Olympic Games and the 1997 World Championships, where he became the first US male foil to earn a medal, a bronze, in the Under-20 Championships.
Coming off such a successful season, both coach and fencer agree that there is always more.
“[Bayer] had a couple of bouts that got away last year,” Quakers coach David Micahnik said. “He was not totally undefeated. There is always more.”
“Of course, I would love to win the NCAA again this year,” Bayer said. “It is a very prestigious title for the myself and the school. For myself, I would like to train and keep going until the Olympics in 2000, that is really the pinnacle for all fencers. And hopefully win a medal, that is the greatest achievement that anyone can really do.”
Bayer, the “Ace of Trumps” in Micahnik’s terms, lives up to the title not only on the strip of competition, but also during practices. Bayer takes his sport seriously, leading his own practice and training schedule. But Bayer is still a team player, drawing off the skills of his teammates.
“He gains a lot of bout experience from his teammates,” Micahnik said. “If people cannot hit you, you aren’t getting a push. But his teammates are pushing him; they are hitting him.”
In the U.S., fencing is a sport dominated by the young, with men and women in their early 20s and late teens leading the way. One of Bayer’s most impressive achievements was his place on the 1996 U.S. Olympic foil team in Atlanta.
“The Olympics are a very stressful tournament, it is very quick, it is very fast and there is really not much time to breathe,” Bayer said. “For fencing, the Olympics are really the pinnacle of everything.”
Bayer is hoping his appearance in Atlanta can be used to his advantage if he makes the 2000 Sydney team.
“The most important thing in my opinion is the experience,” Bayer said. “When you go out to a stadium where hundreds, or maybe thousands, of people are screaming to you by name for fencing, it is really unlike most other tournaments. By going through that experience, you learn to block it out and really just concentrate on the task ahead of you.”
But even at such a high level of competition as the Olympics, the U.S. was represented by two college students and recent high school grad Bayer.
“I think that fencing is starting to catch on and enter the media more than it did 10 years ago,” Bayer said. “People are starting to learn about it more and starting to get an idea of what it is about, and I think that the younger generation has the responsibility to keep that up.”
“It is a relatively recent sport,” Micahnik said. “The idea is to start with little 10-year-z, that way by the time they are teenagers they have the experience. Fencers do not usually peak in their teens though; they peak in their early 20s.”
This gives Bayer time for future success in college, but more importantly, at the international and Olympic level. But in a sport that is ruled by the young, who knows how many 15-years-olds are out there that in three years to challenge Bayer.
Penn’s top fencer takes on youth at frat program
From an article in ****
Wharton sophomore Cliff Bayer knows fencing.
Looking forward to the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, he is currently ranked No.1 in the nation by the U.S. fencing association for the senior foil division.
All of the training in the world, however, could not prepare the Penn fencer for a gym full of 6 to 9-year-olds.
Sponsored by the Zeta Beta Tau fraternity, Bayer and his fellow ZBT brothers conducted a fencing demonstration for children at the West Philadelphia YMCA the afternoon of November 14th.
Aiming to expose the crowd of more than 40 youngsters to the world of fencing, Bayer began with some basic information on the sport.
“You don’t swing from chandeliers like in cartoons,” Bayer explained to the giggling group. And while showing them his gear, he said, “Bullets wouldn’t even get through it. I don’t even feel it when I get hit.”
With a mixture of raucous laughter and instruction, Bayer taught the children the fundamentals of fencing and prepared them to watch a live fencing match between himself and women’s fencing Captain Olivia Leon.
Assisted by his ZBT brothers, Bayer and Leon, a college senior, fenced to five points, and after each point stopped to explain their movements and techniques.
“it looks like an antenna,” said 9-year-old Corey Seigler of Bayer’s fencing epee. “He’s going to get beat up. Girls are more athletic.”
Max Tucker, a 6-year-old impressed with Bayer and Leon’s skills in fencing, added, “it’s much more fun than basketball.”
The children screamed for their favorite fencer as the competition continued. For many of them, this was the first time they had heard of the sport, let alone seen a demonstration of it.
“it’s a great exposure to other types of sports,” said Howard Tucker, YMCA’s senior program and membership director.
“these kids will go home much more well-rounded. It shows that this place is for more than playing hoops.” Tucker added.
Tucker said that when ZBT brothers called to propose the demonstration, he was more than happy to accommodate their efforts.
“Penn could offer this facility so much,” he said. “We’re looking for cultural, musical, arts groups to come… to show that the YMCA is a place of culture too.”
College senior Alan Kessler, who also helped to organize the demonstration, said the event was only one of the many community service projects sponsored by the fraternity.
“It was an opportunity to bridge the gap between ZBT and the rest of the local community,” Kessler noted. “Our commitment to the community is strong.”
When all this was said and done, Bayer won the match against Leon, proving his prowess once again in fencing—and his popularity with the kids.
“It’s so easy (working with children),” Bayer said after the demonstration. “The kids have so much energy.”