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VALLEY / VENTURA COUNTY SPORTS

Sword Play

Chaminade's Snyder Wins Fencing Medal in Moscow

July 26, 1998|ERIC SONDHEIMER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

How many 15-year-olds get to go on a free trip to Moscow that includes eating all the Big Macs you want?

Derek Snyder, a sophomore from Chaminade High, returned this week from Moscow after earning a silver medal on the U.S. men's epee fencing team at the World Youth Games.

There were 139 nations represented and more than 7,300 athletes who competed in 15 sports.

"It was the greatest experience of my life," Snyder said. "I met a lot of new people, I fenced well and everything about it was great."

Snyder, ranked No. 2 in the under-14 division in the nation, was 5-0 in the preliminaries during the individual competition but was upset in the opening round of the finals by a fencer from New Zealand.

"I learned that you can never, ever have a big head even if you are the [top] seed," he said.

During free time, Snyder toured Moscow, visiting the Kremlin and other sites. As a team member, he received all the free food he wanted. He hung out mostly at McDonald's, eating as many as 15 Big Macs during the 12 days of the competition.

But he will most remember the thrill of representing his country in the world competition.

"I felt really privileged because I got to walk around with USA warmups, T-shirts and I had USA on the back of my jacket," Snyder said.

Snyder has played soccer for 11 years, but fencing became his real passion three years ago.

"I like it because it's not just speed and quickness," he said.

"You also have to think. I call it a high-speed chess game with a deadly ending. You have to think all the time and if you screw up, you're dead."

Snyder is continuing his world travels next week by visiting Japan for two weeks to help teach fencing to Japanese youngsters.

Then he'll return to his home in Chatsworth to prepare for fall classes at Chaminade. He can't wait to answer the question, "What did you do on your summer vacation?"

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