|Name: Peter Joppich
Birth Place: Koblenz, Rheinland-Pfalz
Twenty-seven-year-old foil fencer Peter Joppich, from Koblenz, Germany, has competed in two Olympic Games – Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008. He was ranked sixth and fifth respectively. He was also the winner of the World Fencing Championships in Havana in 2003, Turin in 2006 and St Petersburg in 2007.
“I have yet to win an Olympic medal and my next chance is London 2012,” Joppich says. He admits that his hunger for winning is what drives him. “To me, every win spurs me to greater heights, and I hate losing.” Joppich was in Singapore to compete in the inaugural Z1 Pro Fencing World Series at Marina Bay Sands, organised by Z-Fencing (www.zfencing.com).
LISTEN FOR THE CALLING
After watching the fencing competition during the 1988 Seoul Olympics, Joppich, then 5½ years old, decided he would become a fencer. Shortly after, he joined his local fencing club, KSC Koblenz, where he trained in the sport even though he was still too young to fence competitively.
RUN TOWARDS YOUR GOAL
After he turned 13, he left his hometown for the Elite Schools of Sports in Bonn to study and train as a professional fencer. “I left home to pursue my dream,” he says. “My family supported me, but I also learnt to be independent and responsible for my progress.” His typical school day, which started at 6am, consisted of academic studies followed by rigorous training in the sport.
LEARN FROM THE BEST
Joppich credits his success to former German fencer and Olympic gold medallist Uli Schreck. For more than 10 years, Schreck instructed Joppich during the latter’s training at the Federal Training Centre in Bonn. “We get along well,” Joppich says. “He taught me everything. I would not have been able to become world champion otherwise.”
GOING FOR GOLD
Joppich won his first World Fencing Championships gold medal in 2003, when he was 21 years old. “That was exciting for me and I remember being very happy,” he says. Winning for Joppich functions as a motivator and means of tracking his progress. However, he adds that it is also important to uphold the integrity of the sport. “As an athlete, you can only measure how good you are by winning
and playing fair.”
EASE YOUR MIND
Fencing is challenging on both physical and mental levels. “So it helps to have interests outside the sport,” says Joppich. As with many Germans, one of his passions is football. “I’m an athletic person and enjoy playing football because it keeps me on the move,” he says. “I also enjoy watching the game. In the winter, I enjoy skiing.” His non-sporting hobbies include watching movies and listening to hip hop and rhythm and blues music.
Fencing is a mental sport and the sharpness of one’s mind is often the deciding factor between who wins and who loses. Peter Joppich shares three ways with which he keeps his mental faculties sharp and focused.
1. SPEAK A DIFFERENT LANGUAGE
Apart from German, Joppich also speaks English and French. Learning a foreign language is much more a cognitive problem-solving
activity than a linguistic one. Studies have shown that picking up a foreign language increases critical thinking skills, creativity and flexibility of mind.
2. PLAY TEAM SPORTS
When he’s not fencing, Joppich enjoys playing football. Arizona State University scientists in the US report that playing a team sport has a positive influence on mental health. This is because doing so helps to improve one’s social skills and self-esteem.
3. FOCUS ON THE END GAME
Before he competes, Joppich mentally focuses on the prize – to win. Psychologists from Wake Forest University’s School of Medicine
in the US suggest that meditation may have the same effect as regular consumption of coffee or other chemical enhancers to increase cognitive sharpness.