Blue Devil of the Week: En Garde with Fencing Coach Darius Wei

Duke’s assistant fencing coach keeps athletes on point

Blue Devil of the Week: En Garde with Fencing Coach Darius Wei. Duke’s assistant fencing coach keeps athletes on point.
Darius Wei, assistant fencing coach for Duke Varsity Fencing.

Darius Wei

Position: Assistant Fencing Coach for Duke Varsity Fencing

Time at Duke: Five years

What I do at Duke: 

Wei coaches men’s and women’s fencing at Duke, specializing in the foil, one of three sword-like weapons used in the Olympic sport, which started in Europe at the end of the 19th century, built off traditional swordsmanship skills. A typical day for Wei includes private and team fencing lessons. During the 30-minute private lessons, which he holds in the morning, Wei will often address specific skills as he “looks for holes in the players’ games.” The Duke team, which placed second last year at the 2017 NCAA Championships, features 27 men and 21 women. Wei picked up fencing relatively late in life, after taking a fencing physical education elective in college. “I like that it’s individual. It’s incredibly fast paced. No two games are alike,” he said.

A sword by any other name: 

Fencing has three separate events, each featuring a different type of slender sword: the foil, the épée and sabre. The swords differ in weight, length and fighting style. Wei is a foil specialist. “I like foil because it’s a very balanced weapon,” he said. “Its fighting style is the most creative of the three types of swords.”

What I love about Duke:

“The thing about working with Duke students is that they’re always doing something interesting inside but also outside the gym,” Wei said. For example, Wei recalled fencer Anthony Lin, team captain during the 2012-2013 season, who did internship work on prosthetic limbs.

A memorable day at work:

Participating in the 2017 NCAA Championships, which took place in Cameron Indoor Stadium in February. The Duke team came in second, losing to Notre Dame by a single point during a match attended by a standing-room-only crowd whose loud, frenzied energy was more like what you’d find at a Duke basketball game, Wei said. “The crowd was fantastic,” Wei said.

“Those big moments are fun, but I like the little moments too,” Wei added.

Wei also enjoys times in the gym when a student refines a skill, such as making a better counter attack.

First ever job:

At 16, Wei stocked shelves in a pharmacy in his native Indianapolis. The monotonous job taught him an important life lesson: “Sometimes you just have to suffer things that aren’t mentally engaging.”

Best advice ever received:

From his mother: “She challenged me to always be curious about the world,” Wei said. That global perspective has been enhanced by fencing. The sport has allowed him to travel the world to places like Canada, Germany and much of Eastern Europe. Along the way, he met his wife, Kathryn Pierrynowski, a member of the Canadian national fencing team. Pierrynowski works as a software engineer in Cary and the couple have one child, 3 ½-year-old Lucy. They’re not sure she’ll be interested in fencing, but right now she’s crazy about dinosaurs.

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