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Silver medal–winning fencer and MLaw alumna on the Olympics and an athlete's discipline

By John Masson
July 31, 2012

If you can't imagine doing without your Olympics fix tonight, consider how much more intense the craving must be for Michigan Law's Sada Jacobson Bâby.

Because Bâby, who graduated in 2011, brought home a silver medal in fencing from the Beijing Olympics in 2008. When she fires up her computer or television set to watch live images from London, some of the people involved are actually her friends.

"It's been so unusual that you see a fencing tournament on TV," said Bâby, whose specialty was saber—one of three styles of fencing, and the only one that allows points to be scored with the edge as well as the tip of the weapon. "But now that the U.S. has started to have a pretty significant medal count in the last couple of Olympics, it's been easier to find."

That's been, pardon the pun, a bit of a two-edged sword for Bâby.

"It's sometimes difficult watching this from the other side this time," she said. "There are times when I really miss it. Being part of a national team is an incredible feeling."

That said, she's also "extremely happy where I am now," which is on a litigation team at McKenna Long & Aldridge in her hometown of Atlanta.

Bâby credits the hard work and discipline she learned as a fencer for helping her succeed in law school and beyond—a feeling that would certainly be recognized by most elite athletes, including Bâby's husband, épée fencer Brendan Bâby. "I would definitely say that most of the important things I've learned in life have come from my fencing experience," she said. "The willingness to work hard, to set goals for yourself, has been really helpful for me in my professional career. Practicing law is a long road—it takes a long time to become really good. So I definitely feel like some fencing skills play into that."

Another key fencing lesson: working hard every day.

"They talk a lot at the Olympics about how it's not every four years, it's every day," she said of the athletes. "And the day-to-day can be a slog. You have to keep training or working, whatever it is you're doing, even when you're feeling burned out and when you'd rather not be."

Those are likely to be among her thoughts every time she switches on the Olympics.

"The glamorous moments are few and far between," she said. "But it makes it totally worth it when you get to those points and you know you've put in as much work as you can to be the best that you can be."

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