DC doctors bring home medals from fencing national championships

Dr. Laura Johnson and Dr. Andrew Radu, both of MedStar Washington Hospital Center.

Dr. Andrew Radu’s gold medal.

The doctors different fencing swords.

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A D.C. surgeon who uses her scalpel in the operating room appears to be equally proficient with a much larger cutting instrument – a saber.

Dr. Laura Johnson and Dr. Andrew Radu, both of MedStar Washington Hospital Center, returned from the recent USA Fencing National Championships in Philadelphia with medals.

Radu, a psychiatrist, earned a gold medal in the Veteran 40 and Older Men’s Foil event. Johnson brought home a team silver medal and the individual bronze medal for her win in the Veteran 40 and Older Women’s Saber event.

Johnson has been a burn, and sometimes trauma, surgeon for 10 years; she’s been fencing for 30 years since junior high. There are three fencing weapons: the foil, the epee and saber. The saber is Johnson’s favorite.

“I read ‘The Three Musketeers’ when I was in elementary school, and decided I wanted to do that,” she said.

Her hobby, where she gets to hit people with large metal sticks, keeps her sane, she said, especially in these very busy times for work.

On bringing home the gold medal as the top competitor in the nation in his event, Radu, who’s been fencing for 25 years, described it as a “trip.”

“It was an experience. I hadn’t competed for over three years. I haven’t been able to train the way I used to by going to my club because of COVID. So, it was a bit of a trip, actually,” he said.

But the real medal was being a good sport and treating opponents with respect.

“I’m serious about that. I have historically been a bit of a hothead. And so, it’s my highest priority to give a good account of myself as a good human being. I think,” he said.

So, does it hurt getting poked with the blunted tip of a foil?

“The sharpness of the poke hurts way less than the psychological poke of not doing well,” Radu said.

Watching the events as a casual observer, it can be hard to tell what exactly is happening, as the blades move so quickly. Radu said the physical coordination is challenging; movements aren’t intuitive, even for natural athletes, and there are lots of rules.

“So, it’s not just physical, it’s mental. It’s very mental,” he said.

How does Johnson feel about the team silver medal and individual bronze?

“It’s pretty spectacular. It really, honestly is a testament to all of the people I fenced with. It was a pretty amazing crew. There’s a veterinarian in that group. There’s at least two computer engineers. There’s another fencing coach-professor-Maestro. And, it was really a pleasure to fence with them and compete with those ladies, who honestly on any given day could kick my ass as hard as I kick theirs,” she said.

Johnson will compete again in the USA Fencing Veteran National Championships later this month in Atlanta.

Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

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