New coaching team makes big difference to USA’s Geddes


The USA’s Ellen Geddes is currently experiencing her best ever season on the piste.

The 34-year-old has gone from a best ever World Cup finish of seventh in the women’s epee and foil category B in 2018 to five podium finishes in both weapons in 2022.

Geddes is now preparing for the International Wheelchair and Amputee Sports Federation (IWAS) Wheelchair Fencing Americas Championships in Sao Paulo, Brazil, from 22-25 October. Here she will try and defend – and improve – on her epee bronze from 2018.

For Geddes it is the big changes in the team around her that has driven her most successful season to date:

“The huge difference for me was in our leadership.  New coaching has made a huge difference to me, and this has really helped solidify my ability to perform.  We have a new high performance manager Cat Bouwkamp and she selected a coaching team of Julio Diaz and Justin Meehan that is really working for me.  Our national team assistant coach Justin Meehan and I work really well together and this has helped me perform as well as I can.”

But Geddes’s performances have not come as a surprise to her. Instead she believes the potential was always there, and has just been unleashed:

“This has been what I have expected of myself for a long time, so it is great to be able to fulfil my own expectations. I have felt on the cusp of being able to do well for a while, and with the new coaching it is really all coming together.”

Ahead of Sao Paulo 2022 Geddes is committed to finding ways to overcome the geographic distance between her and her coach, Meehan, to prepare in the right way:

“I really appreciate being able to get the voice in my head of the coach who is going to be strip side for me when I am competing, so I went to one of our national competitions this past week, even though I didn’t compete in it, to just get lessons from Justin as we do not live close enough together for me to see him on a daily basis. It is certainly a similar prep to any other competition.”

Shelby Jensen poses with her teammate
Shelby Jensen (far right) and Ellen Geddes (far left). Credit: Augusto Bizzi

In the longer term Geddes, like most other athletes, is gearing-up for the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games. Geddes made her Paralympic debut at Tokyo 2020 last year, finishing a respectable 10th and 11th in foil and epee, respectively.

Taking a look ahead to her preparations for Paris 2024 – and even further to LA 2028 where wheelchair fencing is currently being considered for the programme alongside all other sports – Geddes said:

“My plan is to hit nearly all of the World Cups as well as keeping up with my training at home, fencing some with my teammates and getting time in training with Justin.  My current plan involves continuing on to LA, but we will have to see where we end up after Paris.”

Geddes, alongside her teammates, also has a home World Cup to look forward to. Washington DC will host an edition in January 2023 as the city stages the event for the first time.

It was just over a decade ago, in 2011, that Geddes began her journey in wheelchair fencing:

“I had a spinal cord injury in 2011, and I was fortunate enough to do my SCI [spinal cord injury] rehab at the Shepherd Center in Atlanta, GA [Georgia] and it is through my injury and my time at the Shepherd Center that I found wheelchair fencing, so that certainly is a positive.

“I met the fencing team at the Shepherd Center and they invited me to try it out! I had fun, and I tend to stick with things in general.

“It seems to have worked out for me.”

The 2022 IWAS Wheelchair Fencing Americas Championships will be broadcast live at the IWAS Wheelchair Fencing website from 22-25 October, alongside live results.