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Three Incognito, Talented and Dangerous Student-Athletes Revealed

When Cole Faulkner ’15 came from Alaska to Deerfield Academy, he brought a long list of achievements in the art of fencing.

Sparked by pure interest in the idea of the sport, in the fifth grade Faulkner began working with a former two-time Olympian. Since then, Faulkner has won various tournaments on statewide, regional, and national levels, including the Alaska State Championship and Pacific/Northwest Regionals; and he has qualified three times for the National Championships. At Nationals, he consistently has placed within the top 100 of 400.

Of that experience Faulkner said, “I was young and let my emotions get to me.” His growing maturity within the sport was evident when he placed 42nd in the North American tournament for his age group in 2010.

Faulkner currently has a sport exemption and fences three times a week at a club in Hadley. Faulkner says this is the year that he has to decide whether he is going to pursue a collegiate career in fencing.

Faulkner is not the only student-athlete who has achieved national recognition for a sport that is not offered competitively on an interscholastic level. Asu Bilirgen ’15 and Georgi Dumanov ’14 are nationally and internationally recognized specialists in martial arts.

Bilirgen’s field of expertise is mixed martial arts (MMA), or more specifically, Jiu-Jitsu and Kickboxing. Her interest in the sport came from her brother. She said, “It looked intense…I fell in love with it.”

After only two years of experience, Bilirgen claimed two East Coast Championships. More impressively, she placed 2nd nationally for girls’ Jiu-Jitsu. Yet due to difficulties training at school, Bilirgen is experimenting with something new this year: wrestling.

“The school and the team were very accepting of a girl joining their ranks…I am excited to see how the season unfolds,” she said.

While Faulkner and Bilirgen have both entered their second year on campus, new to the community this year is another martial arts expert: Dumanov. He is gifted in the art of Taekwon-Do ITF (international level). He became interested in the sport because of “the values it teaches and the potential of becoming good at a sport so extremely hard to master.”

Over the course of an on-and-off career over the past ten years, Dumanov has received high acclaim. He holds multiple Bulgarian Championships, three silver medals from the European Championships and a fourth place medal in the World Championships.

Like Faulkner and Bilirgen, Dumanov finds it difficult to maintain his training while at school. Although he trains on some weekends, Dumanov said, “it is very hard with so little time and without a trainer or a sparring partner.”

Like Bilirgen, Dumanov will try wrestling this season, which he said will help maintain his high level of fitness.

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