Meet Evangelos L. Efstathiou ’00. When Evan isn’t traveling the world as a maritime software sales director, assistant coaching for the MIT Varsity Women’s and Men’s Fencing teams, or teaching his 5-year old daughter Katherine how to fence with foam swords, he is competing in the U.S. and International fencing circuits.
Evan grew up in Atlanta after his parents moved there from Katerini, Greece. He learned about sports in high school, where he played soccer, ran cross country, and was a member of the wrestling team and ROTC. He was in Atlanta during the 1996 Olympic Games and was inspired by the remarkable athletes he met during that time. Shortly after arriving at MIT that summer, Evan happened to see a video of MIT Fencing Coach Jarek Koniusz fencing saber in the finals of the 1989 World Championships during the Athletics Expo in Rockwell Cage. Inspired, Evan joined the fencing team, and quickly excelled in the sport. He was voted team captain by his junior year, and was both captain and team MVP his senior year.
After graduation, Evan continued competing, and in 2001 he competed in his first International Fencing Federation (FIE) World Cup, a series of tournaments that are used to determine world rankings and Olympic selection. Between 2001 and 2008, Evan competed all around the world, reaching as high as 83rd in the world while traveling to faraway places such as Russia, Turkey, Cuba, Venezuela, Tunisia, and Iran. Evan returned to competition in 2012 after taking a four-year break, and by placing 24th in the North American Cup this past December, qualified to once again compete at the World Cup level. This past month, Evan competed in Padova, Italy, and plans to compete in the Athens and Chicago World Cups later this year.
Evan says that this time around, the thing that has changed the most for him as an athlete has been his mental game. Evan has gone to great lengths to improve this aspect of his game through research, practice, and even meeting with sports psychologists to learn ways to cope with stress and outwit opponents. According to Evan, these skills are directly applicable to work and personal life. Because fencing bouts are one-on-one, a fencer must have an intimate knowledge of their opponent’s physical and mental strengths and weaknesses; attention to detail is critical. In addition, Evan also watches hours of tapes of his opponents in order to better understand their fencing styles.
Perhaps the most important aspect of Evan’s success has been his relationship with Coach Jarek Koniusz, who has been coaching at MIT for over 20 years. During this time, Jarek has trained 34 fencers who have competed at the NCAA championships and 17 who have won the New England Championship. Evan has been training with Jarek one-on-one for thousands of hours over the past 16 years, and it is no coincidence that Evan’s weapon of specialty is also the saber.
Evan is not the first MIT fencer to excel in the sport. MIT alumni Joe K. Levis ’28 won a silver medal in the foil at the 1932 Olympics in Los Angeles, and Johan G. Harmenberg ’81 won a gold medal for his native Sweden at the 1980 Olympics in Moscow.
Due in part to its rich history as a fencing powerhouse, MIT has a wonderful network of former members who continue to support the team. Alumni of the MIT fencing team recently raised $360,000 for a renovation that transformed the fencing room from a limited space with non-regulation fencing strips to a state-of-the-art practice facility, equipped with a shock absorbing floor and overhead electronic scoring boxes.
Evan is happy to have been a part of the MIT fencing community for such a long time, and is thrilled to be rejoining the international fencing community as well. Be sure to cheer him on this April as he competes at the U.S. National Championships in Richmond and the World Cup in Athens, and look for him in the DuPont Gym for years to come.