Very young blonde girl looking tough holding a sword

When Tierna Oxenreider of Reynoldsburg told her parents she wanted to take up a sport that allowed her to use a sword, her parents let her chase her dreams like any loving mom and dad would do.

And while they were surprised their daughter was eager to embrace a mano-a-mano sport, what was more startling was how old Tierna was when this combatant epiphany struck her.

She was just four at the time. “I want to do a sword sport,” she told her parents.

Eight years later, after her parents decided the sport of fencing was a perfect fit, the now 12-year-old Tierna has become one of the top-3 fencers nationally in her age group. She’s scheduled to compete at her fifth Arnold Classic where she’s won seven gold medals. In 2015 she won the North American Cup Tournament for her age group.

Family and coaches alike say Tierna is mature, humble and beyond determined. The future could be golden for this pre-teen who has set her sights on the ultimate fencing prize.

“That’s my goal right now, to compete in the Olympics eight years from now,” says Tierna, who incredibly is a first-generation fencer.

Tierna’s mom, Xali Oxenreider, says when her daughter found her passion she wasn’t prepared for it “at all.” Tierna was just barely out of her toddler years. But there was only one simple way to support her, no matter how taken aback they were when their four-year-old wanted a sword in her hand.

“It’s hard for people to find something that they really enjoy and they’re passionate about, and all we want to do is support her passion,” says Xali. “The thing we value the most is that she has a mental and intellectual outlet, and a physical sport that she loves. The competition is neither here nor there in a lot of ways. The value is from the sport and the fencing community, which she loves.”

Besides fencing, and like many 12-year-olds, Tierna enjoys fantasy and sci-fi. What’s not lost on her is how being handy with a sword is often an exciting part of her favorite books and movies, such as Star Wars and Harry Potter. At one Arnold Classic, Tierna dressed up as a Jedi Knight holding a glowing lightsaber and was surrounded by Wookies and other Star Wars characters.

She says one of the best things about fencing is the feeling you get when the sword strikes for the victory. In Tierna’s case, she uses the “epee”, the largest and heaviest of the three swords used in fencing.

“I don’t like it when I hurt them too much, but when I am fencing and I strike them it’s a really good feeling,” says Tierna. “It may sound weird, but it’s really fun. That’s one of the best parts.”

You can catch Tierna Oxenreider in action at the Arnold Classic on Saturday, March 4th at 8 am, and later that day at 1:30 pm, with both competitions at the Hyatt Convention Center meeting rooms. She is also competing Sunday, March 5th at 8 am, also at the Hyatt Convention Center.

Here are more Free Press picks with a local flavor for the Arnold Classic 2017:

Jump Rope competition: Tori Boggsis an Ohio State student studying Industrial Design and Pre-Medicine. She’s also one of the top jump rope athletes on the planet. She’s a 13-time world champion, holds two world records, and travels, performs, teaches, choreographs, and competes internationally. She was introduced to jump rope at the age of five got hooked. She performs with The World Jump Rope Ambassadors and competes Friday at 4pm and Saturday at 9am at the Great Columbus Convention Center, in the Eisenman and Trott Rooms.

Olympic Weightlifting: Kelsi Reynoldsis from Akron and relatively new to weightlifting as this will be Kelsi’s second meet at the Arnold. She’s a former competitive swimmer through college but stopped after suffering a back injury.  While doing physical therapy, Kelsi discovered weightlifting helped not only reduce pain but strengthen her back. Kelsi is a 4th year student at OSU in Pre-Veterinary Zoology. She competes in the 69kg weight class and her personal bests are Snatch 55kg, Clean & Jerk 78kg. With weightlifting being an Arnold marquee event, the competitions begin Thursday, March 2nd thru March 5th at the Columbus Convention Center and scheduled from 9 am to 8 pm daily.

Ping Pong:On the Arnold web site there is a picture of Arnold himself playing table tennis. Who says ping pong is only for hipsters in basements and not real men? During past Arnolds, The Terminator has popped in to pick up a paddle. Hipsters don’t have a chance! With over 60 tables taking up 70,000 square feet everyone is welcomed to grab a paddle. The Arnold 2017 Table Tennis Challenge is Friday thru Sunday, March 4th to the 6th, all day long, at the Ohio Expo Center’s Voinovich Center.

Yoga: Competitive yoga will be held at the Arnold for the first time in 2017 when USA Yoga hosts the Yoga at The Arnold from March 3-5 with all events at the Columbus Convention Center in the Short North Ballroom. Julie Wilkes, an author and owner of Seven Studios in Columbus, is a heart disease survivor and believes she was given a second chance at life for a reason and enjoys sharing her inspirational story with others. Her Yoga Pilates Fusion Class at the Arnold begins Sunday 10 am