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An Olympic Athlete’s Road to Success: Andrew Mackiewicz

ByTiffany Allen

6 min read

An Olympic Athlete’s Road to Success: Andrew Mackiewicz

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to compete at the highest level of a sport and represent your country in the Olympics? You might be surprised how athletes navigate getting to the elite level in their sport. Olympic athletes make it look so easy when they’re competing on the international stage, but there is so much that goes into getting to that level. The journey usually begins at an early age and can take many unexpected turns along the way. Physical toughness is part of the equation for successful athletes, but mental toughness is a must-have for every athlete's journey.

Andrew Mackiewicz is an athlete who is all too familiar with the twists and turns of becoming an Olympian. He shared his story with our team at GMTM, so that other aspiring athletes can learn more about his personal journey to the Olympics. Andrew’s story provides inspiration for young athletes. No matter what your goals are, if you work hard enough and persist through the tough times, you might just have what it takes to represent Team USA.

Early Days

Some Olympians start by specializing in one sport at a very young age, but there are many athletes like Andrew, who transitioned to their sport a little later or through a different path entirely.

Andrew started fencing at Zeta Fencing Studio at the age of 9. This sounds like an early age to pick up the sport of fencing, but he had been playing several other sports, including soccer, tennis and hockey, prior to joining fencing. As a multi-sport athlete, transitioning to a new sport isn’t always the easiest. When Andrew started fencing, he felt like he was behind the other young fencers at his club because they had a few years head start over him. Since he was transitioning into an entirely new sport, he needed time and experience to catch up to the others.

Andrew caught a lucky break at the age of 15. He was able to qualify for his first U16 International World Cup in Poland. Not enough fencers had registered for the event, so Andrew was fortunate enough to be given a spot to compete for Team USA. Andrew took full advantage of the opportunity and finished with a bronze medal. This was the spark that impacted the trajectory of Andrew’s career. Andrew went on to medal throughout the season at other international events, leading him to qualify for the U16 World Championships in Moscow.

Collegiate Career

Fencing at the collegiate level in the US is a very niche sport. There are a handful of major fencing programs, especially at the D1 level. Andrew was recruited to the Penn State fencing team, which is one of the top collegiate programs. With 13 National Championships, Penn State fencing has been a national powerhouse since winning its first title in 1990.

During his time at Penn State, Andrew won back to back individual NCAA National Championship titles, while also medaling at various international events and qualifying for U19 World Championships. During those first two years, he took home two bronze medals from the World Championships.

Once he entered his Junior year, Andrew faced a performance slump. He ended up having one of the worst seasons in his career, and began dealing with personal battles outside of fencing. His Junior year was an emotionally tough year that impacted his performance on the floor. Despite the tough year, he was mentally tough enough to take on his Senior year with grit and determination. He made a comeback his Senior year and ended up finishing 3rd in NCAA rankings.

In both his Junior and Senior years, Andrew was selected as a team captain. He was able to put those external issues aside in order to focus on the team. He felt that it was extremely important to give everything to the team that had believed in him, especially during his performance slump.

Journey to the Olympics & Beyond

Despite the turnaround he was able to make on the floor during his Senior year, Andrew still struggled internally. He had lost some of the strength and confidence that he had prior to his Junior year. When he entered his Junior year at Penn State, he found himself in a predicament. He had the opportunity of a lifetime. The opportunity to pursue his dreams of competing in the Olympics. The opportunity to turn his dreams into reality.

It may sound like an easy choice for any athlete, but this was a difficult time for Andrew. He had to face his future, and decide at a young age, what was best for his path forward. His life was shaping up differently from his friends and peers. As he continued to pursue his Olympic ambitions he watched his friends plan their future careers, and lives, around a much more traditional path than his own.

"It's easy to watch your peers going off to pursue their careers, and to feel this discomfort. I felt it, and I struggled with it. It's a big commitment for athletes to pursue these kinds of opportunities. It's not guaranteed that you'll be successful, but there is so much value in pursuing a dream like the Olympics." - Andrew

Upon graduating from PSU, Andrew moved back home in order to focus the next three years around a strict training regimen. He worked odd jobs to fund his fencing endeavors, like training and travel. Unfortunately for many national team athletes like Andrew, there is little financial support available. Andrew worked to support his dream, and dedicated all of his free time to making an Olympic roster.

With only one competition away from the final team selection for Tokyo, COVID-19 turned the sports world upside down. The Olympics were canceled indefinitely, which upended the plans that Andrew (and other Olympic hopefuls) had carefully crafted. He had spent so much time and focused all of his energy on this moment. He had made so many personal sacrifices, and was crushed to learn that the Olympics were canceled.

After a long and heated debate, it was finally decided that the 2020 Summer Olympics would be postponed to the summer of 2021. Qualification competitions were resumed and athletes were able to continue their preparations.  In March 2021, during the last Olympic Qualification in Budapest Hungary, Andrew qualified for the Olympics. He was able to join the rest of Team USA in Tokyo and step onto the world stage he had been dreaming of.

Andrew is officially a 2020 Olympian, having competed on the U.S. Olympic Fencing Team, and he now has his sights set on Paris 2024.

Getting to the Olympics is an incredible feat. According to the USOPC, only 10,000 athletes (all time) out of the hundreds of millions of people in the history of the US will have the opportunity to represent the country as Olympians.

No matter the path an athlete takes to get there, it is one of the highest accomplishments in sports. Some athletes find their sport later in life, take a winding road to get to the next level, or face serious obstacles along the way. Our mission at GMTM is to support athletes from all over the world and all different paths, to help them to get to the next level, including the Olympics.

"I have a lot of gratitude for the network I built during my journey to the Games. Surrounding myself with forward-thinking individuals who helped me take ownership of my story. They were a driving force for me to take the next step as an athlete. My advice to all athletes is to surround yourselves with driven, supportive individuals to help you get to where you want to be." - Andrew

Athletes, like Andrew, use GMTM to find opportunities and connect with national coaches from numerous sports for Team USA.

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