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From beginner to Olympian: Meet Canada's youngest male to fence on the world stage

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Nicholas Zhang, 17, will be competing at the Paris Olympics in July. He is the youngest Canadian male fencer to ever compete in the category.

Zhang grew up in Richmond, B.C., and has been training since he was seven years old.

"This is my dream, I want to be an Olympian, I want to win the Olympics, it is crazy that I am one step closer to that," says Zhang.

Zhang qualified in a dramatic overtime victory in Costa Rica, with his coach Igor Gantsevich at his side, who has been working with him since the beginning.

"Seeing a kid from a young age like walk in here as a beginner now going to the biggest stage, it shows anything is possible," explains Gantsevich.

The coach had his own dreams of going to the Olympics as an athlete back in 2010, but sustained a "career-ending injury" and was unable to compete to qualify.

"It was the worst day of my life when I got injured, I tried to recover but when one door closes, many more open. That day became one of the best days," he said.

Gantsevich is the president of the Dynamo Fencing Club, taking it over from his father. He calls Zhang’s qualification a huge win for the entire club, who call themselves a family.

"This is a new step for our club and it is amazing for our young fencers, especially because they can use this as inspiration … I hope to be a role model for them," says Zhang.

Nicholas’s father, Martin Zhang, has also been integral to his journey. He is incredibly proud and excited to watch his son compete in Paris in July.

"I am wishing him the best and I want him to enjoy every moment for his first Olympics. He has been training 10 years for this," says Martin.

Zhang hopes his journey can show other aspiring Olympians to "never stop believing."

His journey is not over yet, once he wraps in Paris, he is headed to Boston to train at Harvard University, where he was recruited.

"Not bad for a high school kid not even finished Grade 12 yet already qualified for the Olympics and got recruited to Harvard," says Gantsevich.

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