Millcreek Parafencer Representing Team USA In The Tokyo Paralympics
OREM, Utah – You might not be able to hear it from the outside, but inside the Valkyrie Fencing Club in Orem, there are battles happening.
The sounds of metal clanking together, buzzers awarding points, and coaches giving tips to their athletes.
It’s also where the number one ranked parafencer in North America was putting on quite a show.
20-year-old Shelby Jensen, from Millcreek was fine-tuning her training after recently qualifying for the Tokyo Paralympics.
She will represent Team USA this summer during the Games.
“Honestly, like two years ago, I dreamt about this opportunity. I didn’t think it would happen, but it did,” she said with a big smile.
Jensen has come a long way, not only from the years of training when she first started parafencing, but also in her recovery from a stroke she suffered when she was seven years old because of a brain aneurysm.
“I was in the hospital for a month,” she said. “They did brain surgery to clip off the brain aneurysm. Then while I was in surgery, I had another stroke that caused right side paralysis when they clipped off the aneurysm.”
She had to learn how to write and do everything left-handed.
However, being left-handed for her sport helps her since most of the people she faces are right-handed.
“It’s more of a mental sport than a physical sport. You don’t need to have all the physical strength in the world. You don’t need to be a bodybuilder,” said Jensen. “But you need to have some sort of mental strength and mental plan in place before you even start the bout.”
That’s where Jensen excels.
She attacks her opponent with the type of speed that’s hard to defend.
Plus, since parafencers are in wheelchairs, her opponent can’t retreat like they can in able-bodied fencing.
Jensen’s coach says that focus is something you only in only top-elite athletes in any sport.
“That is what I have noticed in competitions is, like, she starts struggling a little bit and then that switch turns on then suddenly, she’s out for blood,” said Brandon Smith, who is Jensen’s coach and a former competitive fencer himself. “Then she’s able to perform and gets that quick speed, that quick twitch muscle, and then she just blows through people.”
The sport has also allowed Jensen to see the world.
She has competing in countries she never thought she would visit.
“I loved South Korea and the United Arab Emirates and the Netherlands, because I have always wanted to go to Amsterdam to see Anne Frank’s house, which I got to see,” said Jensen.
For now, though, Japan is the only place on her mind.
As well as the Paralympics that take place there this summer.
“I just want to do my best,” she said. “It doesn’t, the medals don’t matter to me, but I just want to do my best while I’m there.”