Jacobson, Emily and Sada

Sister act
Feisty Emily and Sada Jacobson are ready for sabre competition
From an article by Michael Farber at Sports Illustrated

Think of a typical sibling rivalry. Good.

Now add weapons.

“If we fight, we fight like normal people,” Emily Jacobson was saying Thursday at the Athens Main Press Center. “It’s not like we whip out our sabres or anything. But we do get to hit each other over the head in practice every day. That helps.”

Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images
There is a chance that sisters Sada (left) and Emily Jacobson will face each other in fencing competition at the Olympics.
There is a chance that sisters Sada (left) and Emily Jacobson will face each other in fencing competition at the Olympics. Sada Jacobson and her kid sister will compete in the first Olympic sabre competition for women, a weapon which, in the view of the International Olympic Committee, previously was dripping with too much testosterone to allow differently-chromosomed people to brandish it in the five-ringed circus. Now in Athens, women can slash away with impunity. The only sour note is if Sada, the top women’s sabre fencer in the world, and Emily reach the round of eight in the one-day competition on Aug. 17, they will meet each other in order to advance to the Fencing Four.

Their occasional bouts are a lot like Venus and Serena Williams going at each other in a Grand Slam, only shorter and with less skin showing. Sada and Emily are training partners back home in Georgia, as aware of each other’s strengths and weaknesses as they are their own. A little bit of knowledge might be dangerous in life, but a lot of knowledge tends to even things out. Sada and Emily have split their four matches this season, Sada narrowly winning their last encounter at the nationals. Although Emily cheerfully concedes that she has lost more of their bouts than she has won — not surprising considering Sada is three years older and more experienced — she, like Serena a few years ago, has begun to close the gap on the strip.

But in their bouts for the remote control — they are roommates on the road — Emily leads by a wide margin.

“Oh, I win the remote control,” says Emily, “because she’s probably too busy telling me to pick up my dirty clothes to worry about the remote.”

Sada, 21, a junior on leave from Yale, is organized. Emily, 18, who enters Columbia University next month is, umm, creative.

But fencing has brought them closer together than ever. Certainly it has insinuated Emily into a older social circle, not always the case for kid sisters. They are equals, or almost, as they travel the globe in times when travel can be parlous even for those who don’t have to explain to airport check-in clerks that inside those things that look like golf bags are real swords. Like the other 12 members of the U.S. Olympic fencing team, the deepest and best this country has produced, they say it is merely sporting equipment and usually just move on.

But Sada Jacobson did run into a small problem a year or two ago at Kennedy Airport in New York when some security guards opened the bags and started twirling her sabres.

“Actually, they were pretty good,” Sada reports.

In New York, you would expect no less.

Sada Jacobson, Brendan Bâby

Published: May 16, 2009 NY TimesSada Molly Jacobson and Brendan Brunelle Bâby were married Saturday evening in Atlanta. Cantor Herbert M. Cole officiated at the Nellya Fencers Club, where the bride trained for both the 2004 and 2008 Summer Olympics.

The bride, 26, is a first-year law student at the University of Michigan, where the bridegroom is studying for an M.B.A.

She is a three-time Olympic medalist in fencing. At the Beijing Games last August, she was part of the United States team that swept the medals in women’s saber. She earned a silver medal in the individual event and a bronze in the team event. At the Athens Games, she won a bronze medal in the individual saber event. In 2003, she became the first American woman to achieve a No. 1 world ranking by the International Fencing Federation. She graduated from Yale.

She is a daughter of Tina J. Jacobson and Dr. David H. Jacobson of Atlanta. Her father is an endocrinologist there.

The bridegroom, 29, graduated from Pennsylvania State University, where he competed in épée, and was a member of three National Collegiate Athletic Association championship teams.

He is the son of Beverly Brunelle of Mill Valley, Calif., and David P. Bâby of Chicago. He is the stepson of Blair Bâby. His father holds a seat on the Chicago Board of Trade.

The couple met in Astoria, Queens, in September 2006 through mutual friends at a housewarming party given by Mr. Bâby and his roommate, Sergey Isayenko, another fencer.

“We both have tons of mutual friends in fencing,” Mr. Bâby said of Ms. Jacobson, “so it was a big surprise that we didn’t know each other.”

Though Ms. Jacobson was living in Atlanta, she was in Manhattan training at the Fencers Club, and was invited to the party by Mr. Isayenko. Mr. Bâby answered the door.

“We hit it off right away,” Ms. Jacobson said. “Fencing was a big part of it, but Brendan was very easy to talk to and fun to be around, and he just struck me as a very loyal person.”

Though they had never been introduced, Ms. Jacobson recalled a tournament in Atlanta in 2004 when she caught a glimpse of a fencer with the name Bâby sewn onto the back of his jacket.

“At the time I thought, what an unusual name,” she said. “Now it’s my name.”