FENCING: Haibin Wang out as Yale fencing head coach
Two years after his promotion to the helm of the Yale fencing program, Haibin Wang is no longer head coach after a decision made by the University.
Haibin Wang, who was the head coach of Yale’s men’s and women’s fencing teams since 2019, is no longer leading the program.
Director of Athletics Vicky Chun informed members of the Yale Fencing Association of the decision late Tuesday afternoon in an email obtained by the News. In the email, Chun wrote that Wang’s departure from Yale “was the result of a University process, initiated outside the Department of Athletics.” Just under an hour following the release of the email, the Yale Athletics website posted a press release conveying the same information.
According to the press release, the search for a new head coach “will take place immediately” — just days before the team is set to begin practicing for the fall season.
Associate Athletic Director for Strategic Communications Mike Gambardella declined to comment on the reasoning behind Wang’s dismissal “as the decision took place outside of the Athletic Department.” University spokesperson Karen Peart declined to provide comment in time for publication.
Wang first joined Yale Athletics in 2014 as a volunteer before becoming a full-time assistant coach in 2016. His predecessor, Henry Harutunian, was fired in March 2019, just days after coaching both the men’s and women’s fencing teams to seventh place at the NCAA National Championships — their best finish in 17 years.
For over two decades, Wang led an illustrious career in foil fencing. He represented China in four consecutive Olympic games, winning a silver medal in the team foil in each of the 2000 and 2004 games, eventually earning elevation to Hall of Fame status within the International Fencing Federation. Prior to his time at Yale, Wang served as the head coach of the Chinese men’s foil team and was appointed as president of the Chinese Fencing Federation in 2018.
As president, Wang led the Chinese fencing delegation at the Tokyo Olympics earlier this year. In a June interview with Xinhua news, Wang set the goal of “doing better than Rio,” where the team was able to pick up one bronze and one silver. At the 2020 Games, China claimed one gold medal in the women’s individual epee.
Members of the men’s and women’s fencing teams were notified of Wang’s exit in an Aug. 31 meeting held in the fencing salon in Payne Whitney Gymnasium. According to Allan Ding ’24, “two members of Yale Athletics met with the teams but did not give any insight into the details of the sudden firing.”
The sudden dismissal of Harutunian, the 2019 Ivy League Men’s Fencing Coach of the Year, proved controversial among fencing alumni. In a March 2019 interview, fencing alumna Maggie Church ’95 expressed her discontent with the athletic department’s dismissal of “a coach who has spent his entire career building a program that represents the highest ideals of sport and scholarship.”
Unlike Wang’s departure, Hartunian’s dismissal came from the Yale Athletic Department, with Vicky Chun less than a year into her tenure at the time.
Wang served as head coach for 27 months.