Gluten-Free Olympian Wins Fencing Title

gluten-free Olympian
Jeff Spear (right). Photo by International Fencing Federation

Jeff Spear, a 2012 Olympian who was diagnosed with celiac disease at 15, won his first men’s sabre fencing Division I National Championship last month in Reno, Nevada.

With his win, Spear, 26, is the second ranked men’s sabre fencer in the United States. He’s in a strong position to make the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, with the qualification process beginning next month at the Pan American Championships in Santiago, Chile.

Gluten-Free Living first profiled Spear in 2011, detailing how he trains, travels and competes at the highest level of international competition as a gluten-free athlete.

He said then that the key to his success was his carry-on full of gluten-free go-to’s including gluten-free bread, peanut butter, energy bars and cereal. The story also noted that he was the salutatorian when he received his bachelor’s degree in evolutionary biology from Columbia University.

Jeff Spear About to Fence
Photo by U.S. Fencing Association

In 2012, Spear competed on the U.S. men’s Olympic sabre team in London and told Gluten-Free Living he found a surprising number of gluten-free options in the Olympic Village. He was a also member of both the 2013 and 2014 Senior World Championship sabre teams. Spear regularly competes at world cups, and earlier this year he traveled to Italy where he had a post-competition gluten-free feast at a local eatery.

Spear talked about his recent national championship win with USA Fencing.

“When I was fencing at the end, I kind of forgot it was for a national championship. And then when I scored the last touch it was just like ‘Oh! I won! That’s great!’ And that’s why there was kind of a delayed scream,” Spear said. “I was focused on fencing well, having fun, just fencing the person in front of me.’”

Congratulations to Spear on his win. We will be rooting for him as he begins the Olympic qualification process.

Susan Cohen is a New York-based freelance writer. She frequently contributes to Gluten-Free Living.