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  • Helen Kim

Summer Spotlight: Marissa Viqueira is on Point

When asked to describe Marissa Viqueira, teammates characterize the captain as “a dedicated leader” and “someone who is always there for you on and off the strip.” Many who know her say that Marissa’s charisma and natural leadership shine through every aspect of her personality.

As a rising senior, Viqueira has been an integral part of the Cornell Women’s Fencing Team for the past three years and a captain for the last two. She has an unmatched record of success, leading the team with an impressive winning percentage of .678. At the Philadelphia Invitational this past season Marissa finished with a perfect 15-0 streak, setting a sport-wide record for women’s foil fencing this season. Even as a first-year, Viqueira demonstrated an upperclassmen’s poise on the sport’s biggest collegiate stage.

My greatest moment as a Cornell athlete was fencing at the NCAA Championship my freshman year. It was really such a great experience to fence among the top collegiate athletes and represent my whole team.

During the 2019-20 season, the women’s fencing team followed in their captain’s footsteps and continued to break records. At the Northwestern University Duals this past season, the team clinched an 8-3 record and upset the first-ranked team, Princeton. Despite the season being unexpectedly cancelled by the COVID-19 pandemic, Marissa’s focus and leadership has not faltered. For her, quarantine and the impact of stay at home mandates have meant more creative and targeted training techniques.

Quarantine has definitely made training hard with clubs not open and my inability to travel to a club, but I can still train my hand-eye coordination. Footwork can be done in a small space, so while doing a certain sequence of footwork you can have bouncing a tennis-ball or throwing it in different places. I try to keep up strength training by following programs my trainers have given me and using what I have, but I’ve focused more on agility – playing tennis with my sister or running sprints – which play a big role in fencing as well.

Though it is unclear what COVID-19 will mean for Cornell’s fencing team, or the NCAA, Viqueira has focused her efforts on training during the offseason to be on the top of her game when she returns in the fall. Meanwhile she has also pursued other activities of interest during quarantine in her hometown of Maplewood, New Jersey.

Besides my current Physical Therapy internship and Red Cross volunteering, I’ve started a bunch of little projects to keep myself busy during quarantine. I started learning to play the guitar, painted my whole room, learned some embroidery, started watching a couple new shows, and played quite a lot of video games.

Viqueira admits she has been binge-watching Homecoming, Nicky Jam: El Ganador, and Avatar while at home. Time in quarantine has also compelled Marissa to think about the larger impacts of coronavirus on the sport. In terms of advice for the incoming athletes, she says:

I know it’s saddening not getting the season as expected, but being on a team is very different from what they [incoming freshmen] have experienced through fencing and that should be looked forward to. There’s the social aspect of the team, bonding, new training partners, and just lots of fun. Everyone at Cornell wants to see you succeed, especially your team.

According to Viquiera, the spirit and close-knit nature of fencing is uniquely special to the team. Other members have shared their unparalleled experience working and training alongside their squad members. Recruited athletes who visited fencing programs at other schools cite the exceptional team energy as one of the greatest reasons for choosing Cornell.

I miss my team… really just having them around. They’re really the most supportive, wholesome and goofiest people I’ve met and never fail to make me smile. I always look forward to our zoom calls but it’ll never be the same as being in person and chilling in the locker room or practice.

Marissa, along with the rest of the Cornell community, excitedly waits for the start of the upcoming school year amid President Pollack’s decision to reopen in September. While it will definitely bring new challenges, Viquiera says that she is hopeful and eager to see what life will look like post-pandemic.

Special thanks to Briana Parris, Jordan Rusoff, and Esther Bentolila for submitting quotes for this article.

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