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TMU Fencer Erika Dominguez holds fist in the air
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How Erika Dominguez won the 2024 OUA fencing championship

By Keiran Gorsky

Erika Dominguez burst into tears. 

Her teammates comforted her but asked why the usually even-keeled and newly-crowned 2024 champion was crying. 

“Tears started coming out of my eyes,” she said. “I usually don’t cry when I win, but I cried this time for some reason.”

A year prior, Dominguez competed for her second straight gold medal at the 2023 Ontario University Athletics (OUA) fencing championship in St. Catharines, Ont. The Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU) Bold fencer carved her way through the women’s foil tournament to find herself in the final against Catherine Wu from the University of Toronto Varsity Blues. Yet, she was unprepared for Wu’s counter-attack and the 2023 championship didn’t go her way. 

“I think I honestly didn’t have a plan. I had a mental block about people who try to counter-attack on me,” she said. “I just blanked out.”

Dominguez launched a counter-attack of her own but ultimately fell 15-13 to the then Varsity Blues first-year.  

“I did finally realize how to beat her,” she said. “But it was a little bit too late. Her score was way higher.”

While this was a setback for Dominguez, it was hardly the most significant one she has faced in her career.

  • Fencers duel
  • Erika Dominguez stands atop the OUA podium as the champion
  • TMU fencer Erika Dominguez punches her fist
  • Erika Dominguez fences

During a bout in a training session in 2018, she awkwardly hopped backwards to try and get away from a hit. When Dominguez landed she heard a pop in her knee. Her teammates had thought she slipped and was laughing, but she was in severe pain while lying on the ground. The fall had partially torn both her ACL and meniscus. It wasn’t until she went home that her teammates were made aware of the injury’s magnitude.

“I felt like someone was kicking the side of my knee,” she said. 

Dominguez then completely tore her ACL the following week when she returned to training a little too early—something she calls a “bad choice” on her part. 

When she returned to action a season and a half later, she wore a chunky knee brace for protection. It wasn’t something Dominguez could afford to wear in serious tournaments where the subtlest lack of movement might open her up to the opponent. For a while, she simply didn’t feel like herself as a result of her injury.

“I was kind of traumatized to get back to fencing because I didn’t want to feel that pain ever again,” she said.

It was her coaches’ persistent prodding that got her back on her feet. Samuel Hardwicke, a former coach with the TMU fencing club and 2017 OUA gold medalist in the foil category, finally convinced her to take the knee brace off.

 “He kept telling me I didn’t need it and it was just all in my head,” she said. “He was right.” 

“I was kind of traumatized to get back to fencing because I didn’t want to feel that pain ever again”

Since losing to Wu in 2023, there was never much doubt in Dominguez’s mind over who she would have to face in the final if she wanted to repeat her gold medal performance from two years ago. Still, she insists there is no rivalry. 

“All the girls from the OUA bracket are all so nice to each other.”

The two didn’t see much competition in the 2024 championship as they sliced through the bracket, with Dominguez surrendering only 12 points in three bouts en route to the final. 

The veteran Dominguez and the defending champion Wu were the last ones standing once again. 

Wu, ever nimble, had some success moving past Dominguez’s aggressive attack. But this time, she was intent on keeping her at just the right distance—not too close and not too far away.

“You can’t hit if you’re like two feet from your opponent, right?” she said. “And you can’t really block them if you’re super close. Distance is number one.”

After exchanging blows, Dominguez redeemed herself from last year’s defeat with a 15-11 win to reclaim her spot atop the OUA.

And when she won, there were tears in her eyes.

“I think it was tears of relief,” she said. “I was like ‘Wow, I finally beat her’…I didn’t want to lose to her again.”

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