“When I heard that my friend’s roommate was riposting her art, I thought it was just a social media thing. That was, until I saw the slashes in the painting,” said one student.
Photo by Jack Yang
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought out talented individuals across the world, revealing a high concentration of self-declared virologists, psychologists, and Olympic athletes. Among the tally of high achievers is fourth-year UCSD electrical engineering student Amy Aurum, who last Thursday announced her intent to represent American fencing at next summer’s Tokyo Olympics, despite having never heard of the sport prior to the pandemic.
“That was towards the beginning of lockdown when the COVID-19 memes were fresher, so I kept seeing fencing described as the optimal lockdown quarantine sport,” Aurum shared in a Zoom interview. Speaking in front of a virtual background of Makuhari Messe, the fencing venue for the Tokyo Olympics, Aurum went on to explain, “Initially I thought the competitors looked like confused stormtroopers, but after I read more into the sport, its history, and where beginners should start, I became really excited.”
A couple of days later she ordered an epee sword online and began learning the fundamentals using several empty paper towel tubes taped together. “My roommate wasn’t that happy to see paper towels all over the place when she returned from the grocery store, especially after ordering me to limit myself to half of one per day to stretch our supply, but it didn’t really matter,” Aurum said. “ Back then, she still thought disinfecting produce with bleach was necessary to protect yourself from the virus. Honestly, I did her a favor by pulling the paper towels off of the tubes for her.”
Aurum’s roommate, Sonia Navarro, stated that she was less than thrilled to learn about Aurum’s new aspiration and so-called “favor.” She also admitted that she had more problems with the situation than scattered paper towels. “I was like, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me,’” Navarro stated. “Trying to take a remote quarter seriously is already difficult enough. If you live with someone who jabs at cereal boxes with an epee, it becomes borderline impossible. The fact that Amy didn’t clean up the spilled Wheaties really feels like the straw that will break the camel’s back, not that I frequently liken myself to ungulates.”
Navarro admitted she reluctantly agreed to support Aurum’s goal because she didn’t expect it to last so long. However, five months and several hundred protein shakes later, she said that her worries have intensified considerably. “I seriously thought she would have dropped it by now, seeing as she took the elevator to the second floor when we lived on campus,” Navarro said, “but every day it’s the same drill. I can’t say no because I don’t want to hurt her feelings, but she’s being unreasonable. On top of that, she’s an engineering major! Where does she even find the free time to continue this charade?”
Aurum noted that balancing her senior year courses and practice routine would be a challenge, but one that she looks forward to. “You always hear these incredible stories about Olympic athletes overcoming hardships or springing up from nothing, so why can’t I be one of them as well?” she pointed out. “Besides, I probably don’t need to work too hard. A lot of athletes are opting out of these Olympics due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which leaves the door open for me. As long as I adhere to my daily two bowls of Wheaties and three pumpkin spice lattes this fall, I can guarantee my spot on the team. Calcium is important for athletes, right?”