(1909-1969) – AFLA national foil champion (1928, ’31); medalist eight times. Member, U.S. Olympic team (1928, ’32, ’36). Finalist, Olympic foil individual (1932) – ninth place. She was the first American woman to attain the Olympic finals. The national Under-19 women’s foil trophy is presented in her memory.
Players of the Game
Miss Marion Lloyd- Metropolitan fencing Champion
By William E. Brandt
Competitive fencing in the past few years has taken on a new vogue in the United States among athletical0ly-minded members of the fair sex, and a powerful factor in this trend is the young woman ‘who won the title of metropolitan women’s foil champion last week for the fifth consecutive year. She is Miss Marion Lloyd of Brooklyn and of the Salle d’ Armes Vince, Manhattan. Miss Lloyd was national junior champion in 1926, less than ten months after the first day she lifted a fencing foil. She became national senior champion in April, 1928. She placed in the semi-finals at the Amsterdam Olympic Games that Summer, missing qualifying for the finals by a single point. She was runner-up for the national championship in 1929 to Mrs. Leon Schoonmaker of the Fencers ‘ Club in the fence-off for the national title last Spring. Miss Lloyd began fencing while she was an employee of a Brooklyn industrial concern in 1925. Since then she has won seven championships, not counting the national team championship which, with Miss Dorothy Locke and Miss Joy Magnus, she won last Spring.
Fencing Her Recreation. But she is still a business woman, a secretary in the offices of the National City Company during office hours. Today business women and college women are taking up the foils in increasing numbers. As an exercise for enhancing natural poise and grace of movement, fencing has always had its appeal. Miss Lloyd ‘ s particular contribution to her favorite sport was demonstrating that competitive honors could be achieved without sacrificing all other major interests. She rides in subways and rushes out for luncheon, like thousands o f other business women. For her, fencing is her recreation, the escape from the workday world. And because she was endowed by nature with what fencers call ” the temperament’ and because she also possesses a quality of pertinacity, a willingness to undertake and carry through the grind of practice necessary to promote her beyond the status of a mere precocious beginner, her recreation has made her name illustrious in the realm of foils. Twice in her s ix years’ career she stepped to the fencing strips and created a major sensation. The first time was when, and entirely unknown factor, she entered the national junior championship in 1926 and won the title without losing a bout.
Defeated German Champion. The other occasions came when, as the United States champion. She marched through the preliminary rounds at the Amsterdam Olympics, defeating the national champions of France, England, Sweden, Hungary, Switzerland and Germany. This last named victory is so far the most spectacular she has eve r won, for Germany’ champion was(and is ) Fraulein Helen Mayer of Offenbach, daughter of Dr. Mayer, president of the German Amateur Fencers ‘ Association. Miss Mayer eventually won the Olympic title, defeating Miss Lloyd in the semi-finals, but The American girl’s victory in the preliminaries was Miss Mayer’s first defeat in any tournament for about three years. United States fencers had so rarely figured strongly in the title tests of former Olympics that Miss Lloyd’s flashing conquest of European champions had the same sensational color as her sudden burst into America’s fencing picture at the 1926 national junior meet. “I had too much success too soon,” she recently remarked to the writer. _. I am busy now learning the things about winning and losing that I should have learned earlier. ‘I am, of course, a fencing enthusiast. For me it is the greatest fun on earth. The special faculties it demands are the kind that can be developed only by constant practice. I mean timing, judgment of distance and speed of action. “Speed of reaction perhaps expresses it better. Not so much mere muscular agility as the coordination of mind with the motor responses. Nobody can fence successfully unless these fundamentals are developed, the perceptions sharpened, the reaction time minimized, by long practice.” I believe there is no other sport in which the reaction interval, that is , the time it takes for the muscles to respond to the mind ‘ s command, is so important. It has to be as nearly instantaneous as possible.
Stresses Need of Fundamentals. “I’m not trying to scare off hopeful fencing aspirants, but I do want to emphasize the importance of the fundamentals. It seems to me that the most common mistake made by girls taking up fencing is to engage in bouts before they have mastered the footwork, the mechanics of the parries and thrusts, and mainly, the coordination between the right arm and the right foot. “You aim and then fire , so to speak.. You plant the foil, then step. When there isn’t the right timing you step in too close. That means mere jabbing instead of fencing. You can’t practice that aim -and -fire coordination too much. “Naturally, when you start fencing you want to fence, but I honestly believe six months’ time is not too long to spend on fundamentals before trying a bout. It’s not much fun, of course. as picking up a foil and poking away . But if you’ re willing to go through the mill, you ‘l l find that all the fun of competition will be tremendously increased when you get to it later and that the advanced lessons will seem so much more natural and easy. .. This fencing “temperament” which you have to have , or else have to develop , in order to compete successfully, is mainly what I should call the power of concentration, the ability to focus all your perceptions on the play. Even a momentary lapse – bing! – you ‘re touched.
First Rule Lots of Sleep. “That’s why the fatigue in fencing is nervous rather than muscular. That’s why sleep is so important a part of fencing regimen. It’s the first rule of training, plenty o f sleep. Absolute relaxation of the nervous system, in between your competitions. “I have no special dietary rules, except the common sense things everybody knows about proper eating. When I’m getting read y for a tournament I always spend a large part of the practice periods on the fundamentals. You can’ t ever have them too fundamentally mastered. …Nobody should give up the idea of fencing because of apparent lack o f physical qualifications. Some of the best fencers have been short of stature, a few even portly. There’s a popular idea around that you have to have long arms. But what you gain in reach and range means a loss of actual mechanical quickness. Short arms give more speed to the arm movements. Shorter legs mean nimbler footwork. “Fencing can almost be a lifelong pursuit, too, because as your muscular elasticity diminishes, your skill can offset the handicap. At Amsterdam the men ‘ s Olympic championship for epee and foils was won by Lucien Gaudin aged 43 . And the saber champion was Stephen Terstyanszky. He was 47. – Then on the other hand, the Italian team was very young. So it seems to me that age doesn’t really matter. And it isn’t necessary to be ruggedly muscular. It isn’t so much strength of mist that counts, for it is the fingers that are most import ant in handling the foil. The wrist and arm and shoulder and body all follow the lead of the fingers. Flexibility rather than strength is the desirable quality in the wrist, as well as in all the muscles brought into play. “Except for one season of basket ball, I never went in for any competitive sport before I began fencing. Hiking was my special hobby. I still like to put on old shoes and go trudging over hills. When Mr. Joseph Vince, who was an engineer at our plant, brought a lot of his foils and masks to the recreation building I was one of the girls who reported for fencing drills in April, 1925.
Recalls Her Early Lessons. “I always had thrilled to read of D’Artagnan, Sir Nigel and all those doughty swordsmen of romance, and that’s probably what first attracted me. I remember that before Mr. Vince could get us to do any real practicing he had to convince a large fraction o f the class that disarming an opponent -making his weapon fly through the air and clash harmlessly to the floor, don’ t you know -was not the last word in fencing science . “Mr. Vince, representing the New York Athletic Club, was national amateur saber champion in 1925, within a year of coming to this country from Hungary, so naturally we respected everything he said. As soon as we got over the notion of trying to give imitations of Douglas Fairbanks whenever we picked up a foil we made progress. “Practicing fundamentals often seemed like drudgery, but after I began competing I was only too glad I had stuck to it. I think I began winning so early in my fencing because I had a coach who developed each fencer’s game to fit his or her personality. That is how fencing is. There are diagrams of the routine, the steps you take, and so forth, but if you’re going to compete it is tremendously important that you shape the outlines of the technique to suit your own individual tendencies and traits. For competitive purposes I really think this is almost as important as making the fundamentals automatic.
Hopes to Go to Olympics. “The Los Angeles Olympics? Well, one thing I am certain of, and that is that competitive skill among women fencers in the United States has advanced remarkably in the past few years. More women are competing and the quality of competition is higher. “That means a better chance for the United States to make an excellent showing next year. I know from my experience. Ever since Dorothy Locke, my team-mate, has been pressing me hard in every bout and beating me frequently, my own game has been getting faster and I think that holds good everywhere, for the competition has become keener every year. “I hope to go to Los Angeles, of course, and it would be great to meat Helen Mayer again, no matter who wins. I think I learned some valuable things from my first Olympic experience and I am sure that the competition here since 1928, has helped me wonderfully… My main advice to girls taking up fencing is to practice regularly. I practice three times a week, the year round, allowing one day’s rest in between. Except for summer vacations, I don’t think I’ve missed one of my Tuesday-Thursday-Saturday workouts for about five years….