By Adam Miller
DURHAM, N.C. – Senior fencer Becca Ward is arguably one of the best athletes to ever attend Duke. A bronze medalist in both the team and individual saber events at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, Ward made a monumental decision in 2010, when she elected to remain at Duke rather than continue her pursuit of Olympic glory and endure rigorous training for the 2012 Olympics in London.
“I couldn’t be happier with the decision I made,” Ward said. “It was a decision I made when I came to Duke – that I really wanted to focus on my education, and getting a little more rounded as a person. I love my team, and I’m so happy to be here, and to be doing what I’m doing. The thought of leaving my team, more than Duke, makes graduation a little teary, but I couldn’t be happier with my choice.”
From selecting one out of a handful of scholarship offers as a high school athlete to deciding whether or not to forgo college and become a professional, many college athletes ponder if they made the right choice, or consider what it would be like had they taken the other path down the forked road, but Ward insists she does not.
“I don’t – I did that life,” she said. “I went to those competitions; I won those competitions. I didn’t really feel like I had anything left to prove. I’m so happy at school that I don’t regret that decision.”
Ward confirmed that she believes she made the right choice because she does not have aspirations to begin another effort to represent the U.S. at the Olympics in the future.
"It’s such an opportunity cost,” Ward commented. “It’s not like I can go to one competition and qualify for the Olympics. You have to go and travel to World Cup’s and Grand Prix’s. You can’t do that and have a real life. I want to work, and I want to go to graduate school. You can’t do those things [fencing and school] simultaneously. There’s too much else I want to do in my life than chase after something else I’ve already done.”
The Portland, Ore., native has enjoyed the past two years at Duke, especially this season where the women’s side of the Duke fencing team set the regular season wins record with 22.
“This season has been really good for us,” Ward said. “Much more than that, I feel that my team is much closer. It’s just so much fun to come to practice and to be around all of these people. There’s so many good memories from the team [and] my friends at Duke. How close I am with the group of friends that I have, the thought of leaving halfway through and not graduating and not having that experience, it really solidifies what I chose. Without my friends and without my team, Duke wouldn’t be the same.”
The former Olympian will finish her last semester as an undergraduate doing some of the things she stayed at Duke to do, both as a fencer and for her own enjoyment.
“I want us to finish our season strong,” Ward said. “I want a good performance at NCAA’s. I want to not cry hysterically at NCAA’s: that’s actually one of my stated goals. There’s still some bucket list things I want to do as a Duke senior: I still need to go to the Lemur Center, I still need to go to the Washington Duke [Inn] for tea. I’m just enjoying the rest of my time here, and trying to make the most of it.”