Air Force male athlete of the year goes for gold
6/21/2012 - BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. (AFNS) -- The sound of thrashing epees and rubber soles squeaking against metal boards ring throughout the fencing gym at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo.
It is here that fencer Weston Kelsey practices twice a day, five days a week, in preparation for the 2012 Olympic Games in London.
Kelsey laughs and jokes with his teammates during practice. He's relaxed, as he is no newcomer to the world of fencing. He has fenced for 20 years and will compete in the Olympic Games for the third time this summer.
Prepping for the Olympics is a full-time job, requiring complete dedication and concentration from an athlete, according to Kelsey. A love of the sport helps keep him devoted, and intense training breeds discipline, something Kelsey, a captain with the 310th Force Support Squadron here, has mastered while in the Air Force.
Kelsey decided to join the Air Force while applying for colleges.
"I looked at the Air Force Academy and felt there was no better opportunity out there," he said.
Kelsey was on the fencing team while at the Academy and continued pursuing his dream of becoming an Olympian while on active duty.
"There's no Air Force fencing team, it's just a U.S. Fencing National Team," said Kelsey. "So I was fortunate enough to be stationed at Peterson (Air Force Base, Colo.) so I could continue to train at the Olympic Training Center."
Active-duty lifestyles often clash with personal goals, but that didn't stop Kelsey. He practiced in his free time and even used his own resources for training and personal leave time to travel to competitions.
"It was pretty busy," said the three-time Olympian. "Fortunately, I had a pretty understanding commander who was flexible, but she always said, 'You got to get your work done before you can go do fencing.'"
All of his hard work has certainly paid off. He has made three Olympic teams, has placed second in the world championships and team in 2010, and helped his team win the world championships this year. He's also ranked number one in epee fencing domestically and fifth internationally.
Due to his success, the Air Force named him the 2011 Male Athlete of the Year. When Kelsey's commander told him he had earned the title, he was thrilled.
"It was pretty exciting," Kelsey said. "I've been pretty good at fencing for a long time, and I finally feel like I had a bunch of results all in the same year that would warrant something great. It was an honor to be named."
Capt. Andrew Williams, one of Kelsey's coworkers from the 310th FSS, said he's integral to his squadron as well as his team.
"When he's on duty for drill, he's there to do his Air Force job," said Williams. "He's committed to the unit and the mission and continually desires to serve and lead in any way he can."
Airmen in his unit also said they look up to him.
"He's inspiring to all Airmen of all grades because of his role as a military officer and because of his athletic notoriety," his coworker said.
According to Kelsey, the support he receives from his squadron makes him proud and nervous to be representing them in the Olympics.
"It's awesome, I really like the Air Force and all the people that I work with," Kelsey said. "I feel honored that I get to represent them. It's that core value of excellence. It's also a lot of pressure on the other hand. I have to bring my best game on the day that I compete because I know everyone's going to be there watching and supporting me."