LIMA, Peru — Ask coach Yoann Lebrun what teenage sensation Jessica Guo might be capable of in her fencing career and be prepared for an immediate two-word answer.
After Guo’s stellar performance at the Pan Am Games on Monday, it’s hard not to take Lebrun at his word.
Guo fenced like a veteran in her first appearance at a senior-level multi-sport Games. She went unbeaten in the women’s foil competition until finally dropping a 15-10 decision to American Lee Kiefer in the gold-medal bout.
Not bad for someone who turned 14 just two months ago.
“I feel like the whole day I wasn’t really thinking about, ‘Oh, I have to get a medal,’ Guo said. “I was just into my bout. I was focusing on one hit every single time.”
With an air of confidence on the piste and seemingly mature beyond her years off it, it’s hard not to get the feeling that Guo will succeed at whatever she tries to do.
She already speaks three languages and is an excellent student. Guo is preparing to begin high school this fall and would like to become an eye doctor one day.
The Toronto fencer thrives on challenges and seeing them through to completion.
“She’s incredible,” Lebrun said. “But the first thing is that Jessica works two times harder than others. There’s no success without work. She’s a really really hard worker.”
Guo (pronounced GWOH) rolled through the preliminary round at the Lima Convention Centre and defeated teammate Eleanor Harvey of Hamilton 14-12 in the semifinal.
“I guess I was patient,” Guo said. “I wasn’t rushing and just worked with what she was doing.”
In the final, Kiefer and Guo were tied 5-5 before the American started to pull away. Kiefer scored six of the next seven points and they shook hands moments later.
“She was moving me,” Guo said. “She has really good point control and a flick. The actions I’m best at didn’t work. She’s also really good at moving her legs.
“So there were a lot of times where I missed or didn’t hit my right actions (on attack).”
After posting strong results at the cadet/junior level, Guo reached the quarterfinals at her third World Cup appearance at the senior level.
Her fluid movements and quick reflexes leave opponents guessing. She doesn’t seem fazed in the slightest about competing against the best athletes in her sport.
“She’s really strong in the head,” Lebrun said. “It’s the biggest part of her game.”
Athletes are using the Pan Ams as preparation for upcoming Olympic qualifiers ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Games.
Guo, meanwhile, is enjoying her accomplishment of winning Pan Am silver — something she wasn’t entirely expecting this trip — and isn’t thinking too far ahead about future fencing goals.
“I’m living in the present,” she said with a smile.
Harvey earned bronze with the semifinal loss. In men’s individual epee, Marc-Antoine Blais-Belanger of Montreal was eliminated in the quarterfinals after dropping a 15-10 decision to Cuba’s Yunior Reytor Venet.
Seraphim Hsieh Jarov of Surrey, B.C., did not make it out of the preliminary round. Fencing continues through Saturday.
Canada won one gold, two silver and three bronze medals at the 2015 Pan Am Games in Toronto.