This summer, fencer Sada Jacobson ’05 gained the world’s No. 1 overall ranking in the women’s sabre, the first American woman to achieve the world’s top ranking.

Jacobson took a leave of absence from Yale last spring to train for the 2004 Summer Olympic Games in Athens. Jacobson is extending that leave through the 2003-2004 school year.

The 2004 Olympics will be the first Olympic Games to include women’s sabre as an event, and Jacobson is well on her way to qualifying for the United States team. In addition to being a member of Yale’s fencing team, Jacobson already is a member of the U.S. National Team.

For now, she is living in Atlanta, training at a fencing club near her home. Training at home has allowed her to increase the length and intensity of her workouts.

Jacobson said she has “probably been working out four or five hours a day.” This rigorous training schedule, as well as eight major world competitions, were two of the determining factors in Jacobson’s decision to leave Yale for three semesters.

Olympic qualification in fencing is based on an entire season of “bouting.” Olympic officials select fencing team members based on competition performance over the year prior to the Olympics. Jacobson’s contention for a spot on the U.S. Olympic team began in April and will end next summer.

Focusing solely on fencing this season, Jacobson is looking forward to returning to top form after a disappointing finish at the Junior World Championship in June 2002. Competing at the world level while attending Yale left Jacobson feeling she was not at peak performance on the fencing strip.

“I felt that I got close to doing well and then blew it at the end,” Jacobson said.

After taking last semester off, she came back to win this year’s Junior World Championship in June. Jacobson’s dedication paid off further in June at the Grand Prix competition in New York City’s Grand Central Station. The fencing strip was set in the middle of the station. Jacobson won the Grand Prix, and a World Cup title, but her greatest reward was fencing in front of so many Americans, she said. Most fencing competitions take place abroad.

Jacobson’s superior fencing career began at age 15, when her father, Dave Jacobson ’74, got her involved in a fence club in Atlanta — the same facility where Sada Jacobson is now training for the Olympics. Yale fencing coach Henry Harutunian recommended the club to the Jacobson family. Dave Jacobson captained the Yale men’s fencing team during his Yale years.

Sada Jacobson began the sport as a way to keep in shape for her high school swim team, but she soon made fencing her primary sport. Jacobson’s two sisters, Emily, 18, and Jackie, 14, also have taken up the family sport. Emily is also an Olympic hopeful and competes in the sabre on the U.S. National Team alongside Sada.

Fencing has drawn the family close together because they “automatically have something in common,” according to Sada Jacobson. Even Jacobson’s mother, while not a fencer, has always been involved in the girls’ careers and frequent traveling.

Jacobson has grown quite accustomed to traveling, which she considers one of the sport’s benefits. The World Championship is usually held in Havana, Cuba, and one of Jacobson’s favorite experiences was traveling to Russia in December 2002.

“I have never been so cold in my life,” she said.

Despite the harsh weather, Jacobson, a history major interested in Russia, was grateful for the opportunity to experience in person the country of her studies.

Jacobson will return to Yale next fall. A member of Morse College, she expects to graduate sometime in 2006.

“I don’t know when I’m going to get the chance to do this again,” she said about her Olympic training.

In the meantime, Jacobson keeps a Yale reminder with her. She wears her 2002 Ivy League championship ring whenever she travels abroad for fencing competitions.