When Chloe Gouhin was introduced to fencing at 8 years old, she recalls receiving a vote of confidence from someone she holds dear. Her grandfather, Chris Harmon, believed she had natural talent for the sport and encouraged her to stick with it.
Gouhin, who is now 14, heeded her grandfather's advice. It was a wise decision.
In the 2017 USA Fencing National Championships held July 1-10 in Salt Lake City, Gouhin earned a national championship in saber.
Harmon died of brain cancer in 2015 at age 69. He remains in his granddaughter's thoughts, especially at competitions.
"He thought fencing was really cool," said Gouhin, who is entering her freshman year at Columbus Academy. "I just did local events when I first started saber and I would always get pretty good results. He always thought of how I played other sports and in his mind he thought I was very determined. He believed that I could do something great with it."
Gouhin's first encounter with the sport came when she was invited to a friend's birthday party at Royal Arts Sport Fencing Academy in Columbus.
She took lessons at the academy, but two years later joined the Fencing Alliance of Ohio at Ohio State and has received guidance from renowned coach Vladimir Nazlymov.
Gouhin, who is the daughter of Sean and Vanessa Gouhin of Blacklick, said she decided to join the Ohio State club because it is well known for its saber success.
"All three (fencing disciplines, foil, epee and saber) are different in their own way," Gouhin said. "Foil is a little slower. It takes a lot of patience and it takes a lot of time to set up the attack. Saber involves that patience, but at the same time, it's quicker. I think it's more fun. It suits me better as an aggressive player in sports."
Gouhin plans on playing on the girls lacrosse and basketball teams at Academy.
Nazlymov was born in Russia and coached and competed in his native country before moving in 1991 to the United States, where he has guided U.S. national teams to international success. He has been the coach of the collegiate team at Ohio State since 1999, guiding the Buckeyes to national titles in 2004, 2008 and 2012 and national runner-up finishes in 2005, 2016 and 2017.
Nazlymov said Gouhin has shown steady progress in the sport and has a chance to shine at the international level, including the Summer Olympics.
"Chloe won nationals and she's a top girl at it," said Nazlymov, who has earned Olympic medals as a coach and competitor. "I believe next season she can make the U.S. national team. Kids who are 15, 16 (and) 17 years old make the national team. She has a lot of talent."
Gouhin entered the national championships seeded seventh in youth 14 women's saber. She dropped to 11th following pool competition, but went on to defeat top-seeded Imogen Harrison of Oregon 15-12 in the final.
Earlier in the event, she finished eighth in the women's cadet youth 17 saber division after entering the competition seeded 16th.
"I knew I could win it, but I didn't know if I would or not because the fencers that were there were all really great fencers," Gouhin said. "It was definitely going to be hard, but it wasn't something that was impossible."
Gouhin's ultimate goal is to qualify for the 2020 or 2024 Summer Olympics.
"When a kid starts fencing or when they start doing any sport or any activity, they want to be really good," she said. "Of course, I was thinking I want to go to the Olympics and I want to go to these big tournaments, but it was just this year when I realized it could actually happen if I wanted it to."