World Campus student hopes to win fencing medal for Brazil in 2020 Olympics

World Campus student Bia Bulcão hopes to bring home a medal for Brazil in the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. Credit: ProvidedAll Rights Reserved.

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Ana Beatriz DiRienzo Bulcão is working toward a bachelor’s degree in business through Penn State World Campus, but she has another goal she wants to achieve first: winning an Olympic medal for Brazil.

Bulcão, Brazil’s top-ranked fencer, hopes to qualify for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. She competed in the Olympics in her home country in 2016, two years before she started taking classes through World Campus, and placed 31st in women’s individual foil. 

Competing in the Olympics before a home crowd was “amazing,” Bulcao said. “The scream of the fans gave me the fire to fight for each point.”

Now, her dream is to represent Brazil on the medal stand in Tokyo. 

The 25-year-old Bulcão, who goes by Bia, said she always wanted to attend Penn State because of its strong academics and its nationally ranked fencing program. She originally applied to the University Park campus, but deferred her acceptance because of the expense of traveling to and living in the United States. After the Olympics, she discovered World Campus, which allowed her to schedule classes around her rigorous training schedule.

In January she moved from her hometown of Cotia, Brazil, to Frascati, Italy, to train and begin the process of qualifying for the Olympics through international competitions. She hopes to represent Brazil and Penn State in the 30th Summer Universiade in Naples this year.

Bulcão trains six hours a day Monday through Saturday — fencing and doing strength, agility and flexibility training and injury prevention exercises during the day, with evenings reserved for schoolwork. When she doesn’t have a competition on the weekend, she tries to use that time to study.

Bulcão hopes eventually to use her business degree and experience as an international athlete to open a club or center in Brazil to help promote fencing, which is often only available through expensive private clubs.

“I want to make fencing accessible to everyone,” she said.

Because Bulcão’s mother required that she do a sport, she started fencing at age 9. Coaches had recommended that she try handball or running, but her school schedule would have made her late for those practices, she said.

“The only one I could be on time for was fencing,” Bulcão said.

When she first signed up for fencing, “I didn’t know what it was exactly!” Bulcão said. “But once I tried it, I loved it.”

Bulcão likes the level of concentration required by fencing, she said.

“It’s not only physical — it’s more mental. You have to create a strategy,” said Bulcão.

Bulcão hopes to finish her Penn State degree around 2022.

“I’m not in a hurry,” she said. “I’m just trying to take advantage of the time I have as an athlete, because that’s going to be over soon.”

Visit the Penn State World Campus website for more information about learning online.

Last Updated February 13, 2019