Cody Mattern isn't getting as much attention as West Linn marathoner Dan Brown or Azalea decathlonist Tom Pappas, but the Tigard swordsman figures he's got as good a shot as they do at an Olympic medal.
Mattern, 23, began épée fencing nine years ago and has since earned five national championship titles, including the 2001 and 2004 Division 1 Nationals. He currently ranks second in the United States.
Dyslexia and frequent moves around the country made school difficult for Mattern. When it came time for high school, he began home schooling with friend Ben Garcia's parents in Tigard. He moved in with them shortly thereafter and still resides with the Garcias.
Mattern studies, and teaches, at the Northwest Fencing Center. After the Olympics, he'll turn his attention to politics: He's the Libertarian Party's candidate for the Oregon House in District 35.
For now, however, Mattern is now focusing on enjoying the experience and fencing his best. "You have to treat the Olympics like any other competition," he says. We invited him to keep a log of what's been happening and share it with WW's readers. Here's a sample:
Thursday, Aug. 12, 2:58 pm in Athens:
"So far, my time in Athens has been non-stop running around. We got into the Village yesterday and went straight to getting processed into the system here. The dorms are nice, and I am sharing my room with my longtime friend and U.S. teammate Seth Kelsey. We are so busy with training or media events that we are rarely even in the apartments.
Security is tight but not oppressive in any way. It has such a warm and welcoming feel it really makes the experience that much more special.
Yesterday we attended a function at the U.S. Ambassador to Greece's house. It was quite the media event, and many U.S. athletes were invited. I spent most of the evening mingling with locals that attended the function, chatting and answering questions about the Olympics and fencing. By the end of the night, there were a few dozen more fencing fans here in Greece who will be cheering on the U.S.A. It was a good event, and the first taste of what it means to be considered an Olympian."
Friday, August 13, 4:07 pm in Athens:
OK, much has happened since last I wrote. First thing is, we have been taking the bus in the morning to the ACG (American College of Greece), which the USOC (United States Olympic Committee) has transformed into a U.S. OTC (Olympic Training Center). Are you keeping up? GOOD!!!
The practice room we share with judo and wrestling, which is interesting to watch when we have down time. They have massage therapists and a chiropractor on-site, and I have been seeing taking advantage of that.
They sent me through processing yesterday to collect all my Olympic goodies. That was really fun, and there are a lot of nice things in it (mostly clothing). Tonight we will bust out the Roots Parade gear. I have been proudly toting my Nike clothing around the Village (thank you, Nike, for taking an interest in fencing).
Today at practice, former President Bush came to the ACG to greet the athletes. To think that I am now running for state representative and to see the kind of press someone like him gets was quite interesting. After that, we came to the Village to eat, chill and get dressed for tonight's opening ceremonies. At lunch, Soren Thompson (my teammate) and I did some big-time pin trading. We are trading U.S.A. pins for pins from the other countries. We are going for the small and strange countries first. Today's finds include Oman, Madagascar, Costa Rica, Georgia and Thailand.
OK, well, I need to get back, shower and get all dressed up in our crazy cool Roots gear. Look me for me in the U.S. delegation during the march. They are really asking that we stay together this time (the U.S. is known for being an amorphous blob of people during the march), so wish us luck.
Saturday, Aug. 14, time unknown
Last night was the Opening Ceremonies! For those of you who watched on TV, you will know it was pretty darn cool. I must say that it is the single most amazing event I have ever been a part of, and it will stand out in my mind as one of the all-time best memories.
The evening started with getting ready at the Village. We found a shady room with a landing, and, as fate would have it, Martina Navratilova came in to use the bathroom. She was really nice and fun to talk to. My first big celeb moment.
During the march I stayed near the back. It turned out that was where NBC told the USA basketball team to be. So I ended up talking to LeBron James, Timothy Duncan, and Larry Brown, their coach. Ended up giving a few of the guys the rules of fencing and attempted to challenge them to a USA fencing/USA basketball cross event. It did not seem to fly.
The ceremonies were just amazing. I could go on forever about that, but it's just one of those things you have to be there for.
On the ride home, we ran into Rulon Gardner. He was the 2000 Sydney Games gold medalist in wrestling. We chatted for awhile. Again a big-name person who was really just a great, easygoing, funny, 275-pound teddy bear of an American. I hate going up to people and doing the "Hi. You're famous. Can I talk to you?" thing. But here I don't have to and actually have times when they come up to me and just talk about the weather, and then about the food, and laugh at the silliness of the Dutch teams' recumbent bikes at the Village.
In short, it's been great and just seems to get better all the time.
Monday, Aug. 16, 9:58 pm in Athens
OK. Today's entry will probably be a short one, as I compete tomorrow morning and want to get to bed early tonight.
Today I went to the Helliniko complex in the morning to watch and cheer on the men's foil fencers. It has been interesting to watch fencing at the Games. There are match-ups you will see where, under normal circumstances, fencer A would kill fencer B, but due to nerves, almost anything can happen. It has been good to be there for the other guys on the team and be there to support them. It's a great U.S. team to be on!
I left to go and meet up with Mike Marx, my fencing coach from Portland. I brought my computer and some DVDs that we have showing footage of my opponent tomorrow, Ivan Kovacs of Hungary. He is quite good and it will be a tough match, but as I have said before, if you're going to win, you have to beat the best. And he is certainly one of them.
After we watched the video, we took off and sailed for about two hours west of Athens. Ended up playing a game of munchkin (a silly card game I picked up from home school and have since come to love and adore). It was a long, drawn-out game. I had a rough start but made a come-from-behind victory sneaking in the win. So if nothing else I have that victory to go home with.
Tomorrow is the big day, so keep your fingers crossed, and I will try and remember to give myself the same advice I give other fencers: Remember, we do this 'cuz it's fun!
From Athens to Salem?
Oregon's part-time legislators have had their share of far-flung occupations: peppermint farmers, roofers, doctors, sportscasters. But, it's a safe bet none has listed "Olympic fencer" on his or her statehouse résumé. Cody Mattern would like to change that.
He's running as the Libertarian candidate in House District 35, which includes Beaverton, Tigard and a bit of Portland. The good news is that it's an open seat, a void created when former Republican Rep. Max Williams was tapped to head the state prison system. The bad news is that among the district's 30,000 registered voters, only 209 are Libertarians. Still, with Democratic and Republican registration evenly divided at about 11,000, and 6,000-plus voters signed up as independents, Mattern's candidacy is bound to get some attention.
He says swordsmanship is a good background for a politician. "When I compete, I like to know all the options," he says. "And I enjoy the problem-solving aspect that is different for every fencer I come up against."
"There are 25 to 30 guys that could win," Cody Mattern says. He counts himself among them, along with France's Fabrice Jeannet and Russia's Pavel Kolobkov.