March 23, 2016
By Claire Kramer ’18
Jonah Shainberg is a sophomore sabreur from Rye, New York. He is a Management-Consulting major in the Mendoza College of Business and lives in Keough Hall. Shainberg trained with former Olympian Archil Lortkipanidze growing up, and was a member of the 2015 bronze medal-winning Junior World Championship Team USA. He also placed tenth at the World Championships in Porec, Croatia. Coming off a sabre title at this year’s Atlantic Coast Conference Championships and a fourth-place showing at the NCAA Midwest Regional, Shainberg was selected to the NCAA Tournament this week in Waltham, Massachusetts, along with 11 other Irish fencers. He placed 12th in sabre at the 2015 NCAA Championships and will look to help the Irish win a national title this season.
Why did you choose Notre Dame?
The team that they have here is one of the closest in the country, and the people that go here are amazing in so many different ways. This school has something special about it when you walk around on campus, and it drew me in when I was a junior in high school. Ultimately, it was a no-decision for me. I didn’t even closely consider any other schools. I have to say, I definitely made the right decision. I love this place more than anyplace else. It’s my home away from home.
How did you first get into fencing?
I started when I was eight years old, after I saw Pirates of the Caribbean, and I thought swords were the coolest thing ever. I just wanted to go after school and play with swords. It became a lot more serious very quickly. I started traveling at a young age and it became more serious, but I still love it. There’s still a little kid inside of me that loves playing around with swords.
What was it like to train with your coach from home, a former Olympian?
It’s so easy to trust someone who’s been to the highest level of the sport, and besides Notre Dame fencing, the Olympics are the pinnacle of fencing. Obviously that’s a dream of mine, it’s a little bit down the road (about four years), but to be able to get there would be amazing. And besides my coach, I have teammates here who are Olympians, and it’s just so inspiring to come to practice every day and train with the best, learn from the best and be able to call them part of your family. It lights a fire in me. I love fencing and I love it for this reason: it’s because of this team. Every day is a dream come true to come here and train every day, and I mean that wholeheartedly.
What was it like to repeat as ACC Champions this year?
It’s going to be our goal every year. There shouldn’t be a year where we don’t win. I’d say it was mission accomplished, cross that off the check list for the season. Our ultimate goal is to win NCAAs every year, so to win ACCs feels really good, and gets us a nice trophy. It’s a good tournament to prepare us for that next level, that next step, which is next week, so I’d say the celebration time was very short because we’re looking to NCAAs. It was obviously great to have Notre Dame on top. To win with your teammates is an amazing feeling.
What does being selected to the NCAA Championships mean to you?
It’s amazing to have the honor to represent this school and this team at the most important tournament of the year. Obviously there’s a lot of pressure, and we want to win. Year in and year out, we’re expecting to win, but to have the rest of my teammates behind my back – a lot of them are traveling to Boston next week to watch us – so to have all of them cheering for you and behind you every step of the way, even though it’s a hard tournament, is such an amazing feeling. It’s surreal. To be able to do my part to help Notre Dame win, it’s a big responsibility, but it’s one that I wouldn’t trade for anything.
How is it different going into your second year of NCAAs?
Experience. It is unlike any tournament I’ve competed in in my entire life. It’s not like the World Championships, it’s not like a [USA Fenicng] National Championship. I’m fighting for not just myself but for everyone around me, and it adds pressure . Last year, it took a little bit of time to adjust to it, but now that I’ve been there and I know what it’s like, and I know how intense it is and I know what my mindset needs to be. I feel a lot more ready, a lot more excited, and a lot less nervous.
Winning a National Championship is your main goal, but is there anything else you want to accomplish this week?
If I can’t do it, I want to help my teammates do it. It’s me and Jonathan Fitzgerald who are going over there [for men’s sabre], so we have to be there for each other, and that’s what teammates do. We have to support each other and support the other weapons. Obviously the goal is to come out of there with a ring, but if not, I want to know that we went in and did our very best.
What is your spirit animal?
Definitely a Golden Retriever. I’ve been told that by a lot of people, and I also have a Golden Retriever, so that might contribute to it. I’m definitely pretty happy and energetic, and I like to play around. I’m fun-loving.
What’s your dog’s name?
Leo. He’s nine. He’s the man, I love him. We got him when he was a puppy. He’s still cute as can be, still lazy though.
Who is your celebrity crush?
I have to say Taylor Swift.
What’s your favorite Taylor Swift song?
I’m trying to go album-by-album. It depends on the situation. ‘White Horse’ was one of the first songs I learned on the guitar. Whenever ‘You Belong With Me’ comes on the radio, I can’t change the channel. It’s an oldie-but-goodie – both of them. I saw Taylor at her most recent concert at MetLife Stadium with my teammate Francesca Russo. It was a good concert, but I would have liked to be closer. I was as far away as I could have been from her, but it’s alright, I’m still hoping I can get to date her one day.
Okay, we’ll see how Calvin Harris [Swift’s current boyfriend] works outÃƒÂ¢Ã¢’Â¬Â¦
Exactly, that’s not going to last long. I give them a good six more weeks. I say as soon as summer comes around and they both start touring… Maybe if I can get to another Taylor Swift concert and get close enough that I can toss her my number, I’d like to think that I could contribute to the downfall of their relationship, but obviously that’s a lot of ‘if”s.
Do you have a guilty pleasure TV show?
I’ve watched every episode of Entourage about nine or ten times now, to the point where I can play the part of every character.
Who’s your favorite Entourage character?
Ari Gold. He’s very brash, very blunt, very opinionated, funny, and he demands your attention. The guy who plays him, Jeremy Piven, is a great actor.
I’ve heard that you’re a Dave Matthews Fan. What’s your favorite Dave Matthews song?
It depends on the situation. ‘Grey Street’ [is a] great song, not very well-known to a lot of people. [I like] ‘Jimi Thing’ also. I like a lot of his live stuff, because he jams for like 20 minutes with the band. It’s great for procrastinating homework, because I’ll be like, ‘Oh, at the end of this song, I’ll do work,’ and the song is 20 minutes.
How would you describe your pickup basketball skills?
Oh man, I’m ferocious. I’m absolutely ferocious. I don’t like to lose. I pass sometimes, and sometimes you have to give it to your teammate who has the hot hand, but pickup basketball is not an area where I like to play around. That’s all serious to me.
What about FIFA?
FIFA depends on the day. There are some days when I’ll lose 5-0 and have to write apology letters. There are some days when I get lucky and get Germany in Random International mode, and I can wreck people. But very hot and cold. I need to work on my consistency a bit.
Do you prefer North or South Dining Hall?
What your best South Dining Hall creation?
I make a mean peanut butter, banana and honey toasted sandwich. Good for any meal, by the way. I eat it more often than I should. I like to think that peanut butter is good for you, but apparently not, I’ve heard. I choose not to believe it, but until it’s scientifically proven that it’s not good for you, I’ll probably continue to eat it. Probably three meals a day out of my four.
Which Disney Princess do you identify with the most?
Ariel, the Little Mermaid. I’m sure there’s a deep-rooted reason somewhere ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢’Â¬Â¦ [When I was three or four years old], I was in the mall with my grandparents and my mom, and I saw an Ariel action figure, like a doll, and I wanted my grandparents to buy it for me, and they didn’t. I threw a temper tantrum, screaming and crying, and they walked away from me and actually left me. Obviously, I’m a little embarrassed to admit that story, but that has to be the reason. Great movie.
What is your favorite video game?
Mario Kart. Good for any time. I’m not the best at it, but my good friend David is the champion of Mario Kart, the best I’ve ever seen. I’m just trying to replicate his talent, but I’m getting there. I’m not bad.
Who is your favorite Mario Kart character?
Toad. I’ve never not played with Toad.
If you could play any other sport at Notre Dame, what would it be?
Baseball. I played baseball up until junior year of high school until I had to give up one for the other, and I chose fencing. I miss it. I love baseball. For me, when baseball starts, it’s the beginning of summer. I’m a huge Cardinals fan. My dad went to college in St. Louis, and I have family in the south and that’s the team that they cheer for.
How do you feel about the Cardinals this season?
I would feel better if the Cubs didn’t take all of our best players, but I think we’ll pull through. We know how to win, and that’s what’s important.
If you could be anyone else, who would you be?
Jordan Spieth. I’m a big Jordan Spieth fan, he’s just on top of the world right now. Absolute killer. He’s the face of Under Armour, which is my favorite company, and he knows how to win and does it respectfully.