VINCENT “VINNIE” BRADFORD
March 3, 1955 -
As a young girl growing up in Fort Worth, Vincent “Vinnie” Bradford loved playing in the outdoors. For a time she pursued horseback riding, became an accomplished rider, and competed in many state equestrian competitions. But the precocious and active young woman soon bored of this sport.
As a kid, Bradford admits that she was very shy and insecure. "I was tall and thin and had a long, lanky body,” she recalled, “and I felt very self-conscious. Unfortunately, it seems that society has 'said' that it isn't okay for a woman to have a big body or to be strong.” For young women in the era before Title IX, there were few sporting opportunities. Athletic young women such as Bradford had to pursue sports through individual determination, and thanks to community and city recreation programming fencing was one of the few choices available to young girls and women.
Bradford learned of fencing and soon found that her long, lanky body gave her advantage. At age 16, she attended the Junior National Championships and placed second, qualifying for the Junior World Championships in Madrid, Spain, where she finished higher than any other American had ever finished. The flashy swordplay that had initially attracted her to the sport, soon gave way to hard work and training.
While attending Paschal High School, Bradford had petitioned for the establishment of girls’ sports teams with no luck. Since school officials would not consider it, she took the GED and moved to Houston to pursue training on her own.
Along with long-time competitor and friend Stacey Johnson of San Antonio, the two Texans enrolled at San Jose State University, where they teamed up with Gay D’Asaro to win the National Intercollegiate Women's Fencing Association team title an unprecedented four years in succession. Additionally, Bradford won individual honors in 1975 and 1977. Her teammate Stacey Johnson won the individual title in 1976 and 1978. Bradford did not qualify for the 1980 Olympics, but her performance during the trials elevated Johnson to the U.S. Olympic team. Unfortunately the U.S. boycotted the games that year.
In 1983, Bradford won the U.S. National Championship in women’s epee and in 1984 won both the epee and foil championships becoming the first woman to ever win two national championship individual titles in the same year. At the Los Angeles Olympic Games Bradford competed in women’s foil, the only fencing event open to women at that time, placing in the top twenty-four – not the result she had hoped for. Bradford continued competing for a number of years after the 1984 Olympics.
These were the early days of women’s epee and Bradford was a pioneer for women’s expanded access in the male dominated world of fencing. She was a leader for women fencers and in the education and development of fencing coaches. Bradford was the second woman in the United States to earn her Fencing Master’s Certification.