Sammamish fencer Ketki Ketkar, 17, placed third at the Junior World Fencing Championships earlier this month and brought home a bronze medal.
This is Ketkar’s second time competing at the world championship in épée, the largest and heaviest sword in fencing. Last year, she also placed third, but she was competing in the younger “Cadet” bracket.
Being selected to represent the United States is quite an honor. Every year, each participating country picks their best fencers from each age group to represent the country at the championships. Ketkar was one of four women selected to represent the U.S. this year. The event was held in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, from April 5 to 11.
Ketkar started off the tournament placing 63rd in seeds out of 160. Her first match after pool play in direct elimination was against 66th seed Zainab Alhosani of the United Arab Emirates. The match was an easy win for Ketkar: 15-3.
She continued in pools to play her next match against 2nd seed Taehee Lim of South Korea. She was tough to beat, but Ketkar persevered and won 15-9. Next came 30th seed Aya Hussein of Egypt, whom Ketkar beat 15-11. Afterward, Ketkar proceeded to play 15th seed Emma Fransson of Sweden. It was close, but Ketkar came out with a 15-14 victory.
Ketkar then played 7th seed Lili Buki of Hungary. Ketkar said this was her favorite bout of the tournament due to the high-paced duel and Buki’s very good technique. She said she had a lot of fun. Ketkar won 15-13.
It was fellow U.S. fencer Hadley Husisian who eliminated Ketkar in the finals. Husisian proceeded to win the championship while Ketkar tied for third with Aleyna Erturk of Turkey.
Ketkar said this year’s championship differed significantly from last year as COVID-19 restrictions were lifted. There was no mandatory COVID-19 testing before the competition, or limits on how many family members could attend. Tournament organizers did not require masks or a bubble to prevent athlete contact with the people of Dubai. Many fencers and spectators opted to wear masks, despite the rule change.
Ketkar’s coach Yasser Eldarawani, 46, was not able to attend this year, but he did do video calls with Ketkar between bouts to provide coaching.
Eldarawani said that Ketkar “did very well” and is “very dedicated” to the sport, and that she has the drive, dedication, and patience to be a highly successful fencer.
Ketkar has high aspirations for her fencing career. She is currently focused on qualifying for junior and senior world championships, and hopes to qualify for the 2024 Paris Olympics. She said she would like to go, in part, because she loves French food.
Both Ketkar and her twin sister Mallika will be attending Cornell University in the fall, and joining Cornell’s fencing team.
Ketkar is grateful to her sister, coach, and family for their support in her journey to the championship. She said that they have really helped her and have always been there for her.
“Mallika called me, like, six times every day,” Ketkar said. “She encourages me to help myself.”