Karina Dyner Villa is just 16 years old, but she’s already accomplished more than some people will in a lifetime.
How’s this for a résumé? Dyner is the ninth-ranked junior fencer in the world. Despite her age, the young Tica is also steadily climbing up the senior rankings — she’s currently 129th and rising. Dyner is temporarily living in Budapest, Hungary, where she has access to high-level competitions.
Oh, and she’s still a high-school student, taking online classes between training sessions.
“It’s a big change, and it’s not easy,” Dyner said of her move abroad. “But the practices are good, and the trainer I’m working with is, too, so I’m happy.”
Earlier this month, Dyner finished ninth at a Junior World Cup in Ma’alot-Tarshiha, Israel. Of the 50 participants, the Tica was the only one from North, South or Central America.
And that’s not an accident: Dyner’s move to Europe was meant to put her in the sport’s hotbed and springboard her development.
“It’s a more common sport here and a lot more people practice it,” she said. “The majority of international competitions and high-level competitions are in Europe. So I’m in a good location to go to these events and maintain my high level.”
Dyner was introduced to fencing through a friend when she was 10 years old. At first, she says, the sport was completely foreign to her. But trainers saw promise in her athleticism, height and reach.
“[My friend] said that I should go try it with her,” Dyner said. “I went, even though I didn’t even know what the sport was. But I enjoyed it because of how different it was.”
Paired with Dyner’s fierce competitiveness, her physical traits propelled her to an elite level. By 13, she had been invited to train with Costa Rica’s national team.
Dyner attributes much of her rapid growth to Jerzy Konczalski, the Polish coach who worked with the Costa Rican Fencing Federation until last year.
Konczalski had helped to elevate the sport in Costa Rica, Dyner says, and his departure left her seeking a similarly high level of training.
“I would say Costa Rican fencing was at the best point in its history, especially in épée,” Dyner said, noting her preferred weapon. “[Konczalski] worked with me from a young age, and I had a fast development. I got good results internationally, and so did the national teams.”
In Budapest, Dyner is preparing for the 2019 Pan American Games, scheduled for July and August in Lima, Peru.
As you might expect, she’s taking it seriously. According to the International Fencing Federation, she’ll be sparring in Italy and Slovakia next month.
“I love to compete, to stand on the podium and hear the national anthem, to have the support of Costa Rica,” Dyner said. “It’s such a nice feeling, and I’ve been able to experience that many times. There are no words to describe it.”
Not bad for a 16-year-old.
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