It’s a lifetime ambition and dream come true for 28-year-old Eli Schenkel, who co-owns and operates S-Class Fencing on Voyageur Way in north Richmond with his brother, Joseph.
Due to the pandemic, all of last year’s qualifying events were postponed so, although Team Canada had qualified, individual spots on the team had still to be decided until a couple of weeks ago.
That’s when Eli did enough at the Doha Grand Prix in Qatar to earn his spot in Tokyo and achieve a lifetime goal of becoming an Olympian at his chosen sport.
“Having spent roughly a year in limbo, where the Canadian team itself was qualified for Tokyo, yet the individual and team selection still being up in the air, it was a huge sigh of relief to finally achieve my 18-year dream of attending an Olympic games,” said Eli, who has been fencing since the age of 10.
“I was overwhelmed with gratitude for my brother and Alex Martin, another coach I work with in Calgary, who both helped me to prepare over the past year.”
Like many Olympic athletes, however, there is a back story of sacrifice, with Eli taking the gamble two years ago of giving up a “cozy” career in marketing in L.A. – where his family is based – to pursue coaching in B.C. and, of course, a shot at getting on the Olympic team.
“Having had to leave work to train as well as staying apart from my family for over a year, I often questioned whether qualification was even worth it,” Eli told the Richmond News.
“I can now say that everything was undoubtedly worth it, as there is no feeling that quite compares to achieving your dreams in your own way.
“People didn't realize I made that decision because it would allow me to pursue both sports as well as a sports-related tech start-up, which I hope to launch within the next few months; now that I've achieved one dream in qualifying for Tokyo, it really seems like anything is possible.”
In realizing one of his ambitions, Eli credited the support from his family, friends, coaches and students, adding that he “would not have had the mental or emotional energy to complete my dream.”
The News reported last month how Richmond Secondary alumnus Shaul Gordon also clinched a spot on Canada's 2020 Tokyo Olympics fencing team.