Conversation Across the Decade(s)

June 12, 2018

Alice C. and Adam W. ’18, Carol Ruth Silver and Alexander Massialas ’08Alice C. and Adam W., both members of the Class of 2018, reached out by email to Alexander Massialas ’08, a fellow Firedragon who blazed a path a decade prior, to learn about his accomplishments and life after CAIS. At Graduation Dinner, the three were able to meet in person and also were joined by CAIS founder Carol Ruth Silver. Massialas shared his Olympic medals which drew an awed crowd of students. 

Alice and Adam: Your father was also an Olympic fencer, is this how you got involved in the sport?

Alexander: My father was a 3-time Olympian himself so I grew up around the sport. I grew up walking around the halls of our apartment seeing my dad’s old fencing photos, memorabilia, equipment, and most importantly, the Olympic rings. Ever since I was a kid I had a fascination with the Olympics, and the Olympic movement and spirit. When my dad started his own fencing club, I couldn’t wait to start.
 

Alice and Adam: From what we have heard, the amount of homework that you get at high school is even more than CAIS, how did you manage to fit in your fencing?

Alexander: My parents always stressed the importance of focusing on being a student first and an athlete later. If I didn’t stay on top of my schoolwork, my parents wouldn’t let me fence, or play any other sports for that matter. It is all about prioritization and time management; I knew that I wanted to fence, play other sports, and do well in school but that meant I had a lot less time to goof around and, in some cases, hang out with friends. Obviously I still tried to have time to spend with friends but there were instances where I knew I had to sacrifice hanging out with friends if I wanted to excel in sports and school.
 

Alice and Adam: How old were you when you competed in last Olympics and what was your experience like?

Alexander: I was 22 years old in Rio 2016 and it was an amazing experience. Though I competed in my first Olympics as an 18-year old in London 2012, this experience was a lot different. Having gone to a previous Olympics, I already had gone through the processing, opening ceremonies, meeting new athletes, and the general awe that the Olympics inspire so I knew what to expect. The biggest difference was that in Rio, the main thing I wanted to do was get on the strip, compete, and show the world what I could do whereas in London I was also maybe too excited to go through the opening ceremonies, meeting celebrity athletes, and exploring the athlete’s village. Also, walking away with a Silver and Bronze medal from Rio was an experience I will never forget, a dream come true. 

 

Alice and Adam: Fencing has been a great asset for you, and its allowed you to compete in the olympics which not many people are able to do. What else has fencing done for you other than allow you to compete at the highest caliber?

Alexander: Fencing has taught me so much over the years, whether it be in sports or in life in general. Fencing has taught me extremely valuable time-management skills that will help in all facets of life. Being able to manage your time effectively not only helps in school, but when you go to work in the future. Another skill it has taught me is how to prioritize what is important to me in life. Though this is similar to time-management, being able to identify what is important to you is extremely valuable because you can focus on the things that most impact your happiness and well-being. Whether that applies to what you want to do in life or the friends you choose, being able to prioritize is an extremely valuable asset. Also the community I have been able to connect with through fencing on the national, international, and collegiate levels is something I will never forget because some of my best friends are ones I met in the fencing world. In fact, one of my best friends, Nobuo Bravo, started fencing in the same class I did here at CAIS!

Alice and Adam ask: Will you be competing in the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo? What do you think your chances of getting a medal are?

Alexander: The qualification process has yet to begin for Tokyo 2020 but I am currently training to qualify and compete in the next Olympic Games. If I am able to qualify, I think I have large chance at another medal because I’ll be four years stronger and more experienced from my 2-medal performance in Rio 2016.
 
 

Alice and Adam: What advice do you have for students about to graduate from CAIS?

Alexander: My advice to the graduating students of CAIS is to cherish the bonds you have made at CAIS. I still keep in contact and are good friends with a lot of people in my class. CAIS is such a special place and fosters such a unique community that I personally will never forget my time there nor my classmates. Another piece of advice, even though it is related to my first piece, is to always make some time for your friends. Even though you will have less free time moving forward into high school, and then subsequently college, it is important to still make time for your friends. Being able to keep a close group of friends has always been important to me because they are an important support pillar to pick me up when I am down but also share the ride of the highs. No matter how busy you get, you can always make some room to share a laugh with your friends.
 

Alice and Adam: What moment stands out most vividly from your time at CAIS?

Alexander: I don’t know if I can single out a particular moment that stands out to me most at CAIS because there were so many stories and experiences that are embedded so clearly. The thing that stands out to me most though is the community. I will never forget my classmates I grew up with, the parents that supported at school functions and sporting events, and the teachers and faculty who guide you every step of the way. Every person I met had some lasting impact on me that I still remember.
 

Alice and Adam: What role do Mandarin, Chinese culture, and/or CAIS still play in your life today?

Alexander: The school has grown considerably since I graduated, both in size and reputation, so I think a lot of people already know more about the school now than when I went. I do have to stress the sense of community is something that I think people really underestimate, even now. In the 11 years I went to school at CAIS, every teacher knew me by name even if they had only taught me in kindergarten and I knew every teacher’s name. Everyone in the faculty, whether it was whoever is working the front desk (Christina when I was a student) or Tang Lao Shi, was so warm and always wanted to help. In fact, before the Rio 2016 Olympics my old Pre-K Chinese teacher saw me on the news, recognized me and wrote a letter to our fencing club wishing me good luck. She even remembered my parents and specific stories of my time in class with her! I will always cherish that letter because even though I always remembered her as being one of my favorite teachers (even though it was only for Pre-K), for her to remember me after so many years of teaching and so many years removed from CAIS was extremely touching.
 

Alice and Adam: What is something you wish more people knew about CAIS?

Alexander: I still use my Mandarin daily, whether it be to speak with my mother and her side of the family or simply ordering food at a restaurant. Chinese culture and language is a huge part of my life, being able to dig into the history of my Chinese side of the family was a lot more fruitful because CAIS taught me the language, history, and culture of China. I am also able to make a lot of connections that others cannot because I speak Mandarin. One example is that I am one of the few fencers on the international circuit to be able to speak with the Chinese fencing team because most of the fencers cannot speak other languages. Being able to speak with them has helped developed a strong relationship between the US and Chinese fencing teams and we have held multiple training camps together because of that.