In the summer of 1996, the city of Atlanta was given the honor to host the 26th Olympic Games. Since then, our ever-growing metropolis has become the home for countless American and even international Olympic athletes. One Olympian in particular, World Champion Fencer: Iosif Vitebskiy, can actually be found right here in the Buckhead area.
Born in Kiev, Ukraine of the U.S.S.R. in January 1938, Iosif lived in a small Jewish community within the city. He began fencing at the age of 14 while attending Technical School. During this time, Losif left school to work in a manufacturing factory in order to provide for his family. However, with the support of his work-manager, Losif was allowed to leave early so that he could continue his training.
“While most boys trained three or four times a week, I trained seven times,” explained Losif.
In the sport of fencing, there are three types of weapons: a foil, épée, and sabre. Each blade has its own separate event and different techniques. Losif trained as an “épée fencer” which is the only of the three to allow the entire body as a valid target area. Épée is also the heaviest of all three fencing weapons, and requires an incredible amount of concentration, accuracy and speed. Losif is also trained in wielding dual épées as well.
At the age of 18, Losif won a silver medal at the Jr. Division Championships. The next year in 1957, he won gold at the Ukrainian Fencing Championships and began a lucrative career within fencing. During his time on the Soviet and Ukrainian national teams, Losif won a total of 19 medals at the National Championships. This included 10 gold, 6 silver, and three bronze medals. Losif competed in countless tournaments throughout Euorpe and the Soviet Union, and placed in the “Épée Team” event at the World Fencing Championships from 1967-1969.
In 1968, Losif represented the U.S.S.R at the 19th Summer Olympics held in Mexico City. He competed in Team Épée, and won a miraculous second place out of 20 other nations. Losif went on to become a fencing trainer in 1974 for his old club where his students immediately began achieving high results.
In 1998, seven years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Losif was invited by David Micahnik to become his Assistant Coach at the University of Pennsylvania. David was another Olympic fencer as well as the 1960 U.S. National Champion. He represented the U.S. at the 1968 Olympic Games where he and Losif became good friends.
Losif officially retired from competition in 1999, after winning gold at the Summer U.S. National Championships in the “Veteran 60 Men’s Épée Event”. This past year, Losif decided to move here to Atlanta for health reasons, but continues his love for all things fencing.
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– Becki White