Jonah Shainberg, right, competing in the 2020 Warsaw World Cup in February.
— Photo by Augusto Bizzi
Olympics Quest Paused for Rye Fencer Jonah Shainberg
By Georgetta L. Morque
With just three qualifying events left on the long road to secure a spot in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, fencer Jonah Shainberg was forced to put down his sword as the coronavirus swept the globe. The season’s early stop[ and the eventual postponement of the Games until 2021 left Shainberg and the other athletes in a situation they never could have imagined.
Having reached 6th place in USA Fencing Senior Men’s Saber team point standings, the 2014 Rye High School graduate was in striking distance of being one of the top four eligible for the U.S. Olympic Fencing Team. This month, he was supposed to compete in World Cup events in Budapest and Seoul and USA Fencing’s Div. 1 National Championships in St. Louis.
“The decision to postpone came at a crucial point of our season,” said Shainberg, who was initially concerned that the top four would be determined by the rankings thus far or that he would have to start all over again for 2021. Fortunately, the three remaining events will be rescheduled — the dates and locations to be determined.
Since graduating as one of the University of Notre Dame’s top fencers in 2018, Shainberg has been training full-time for his ultimate dream. Since the fall, he’s competed or trained in Italy, Hungary, Russia, Spain, Egypt, Poland, and Luxembourg in addition to many U.S. cities. After a disappointing start to the season, Shainberg said he began to catch fire, attaining the best results of his life which catapulted him from 13th to 6th place. “I was peaking the most from January on,” he said.
In early March, Shainberg and his fellow fencers began to see trouble looming. The World Cup in Luxembourg was supposed to have taken place in Italy, which had been struck by the virus. Germany wouldn’t host the event, but Luxembourg, without any cases at the time, agreed. No spectators were allowed, recalled Shainberg, and there were temperature checks at the door. The Chinese fencers weren’t able to return home. Travel bans ensued.
“Everyone is in this together, which makes it a little easier to process,” said Shainberg, who is staying positive and training now in Rye via Zoom with activities he can do at home. He’s also running and taking Zoom Pilates with Marjut Savage. “I’ve told myself to be an Olympian you have to overcome all adversities,” he offered. “This is one more test.”
Another test will be this fall when he is due to start work as a management consultant in the city. He’s too close to the finish line to stop fencing, yet he’s also looking forward to starting a career. He’s bravely accepted the challenge to do both.
“I’m fortunate now to be with my family in Rye,” said Shainberg, who sees these extraordinary circumstances as an opportunity for everyone to re-evaluate priorities. He’s doing his best to stay in shape and will step up training when the new schedule for Tokyo 2021 draws near. “Whenever I get my chance, I’ll be ready.”