Obituary: George Kolombatovich (USA)

The FIE is saddened to report that USA Fencing Hall of Fame member George Kolombatovich passed away on September 19. He was born on August 29, 1946.

He was an official and referee at numerous world events, including three Pan American Games, three World Championships, the Paralympic Games and three Olympic Games (Los Angeles 1984, Barcelona 1992 and Atlanta 1996). A member of the FIE Referee Commission from 2000 to 2008, he also served on the U.S. Fencing Officials Commission for more than 30 years. For decades, he was an ever-present member of the bout committee (DT) at U.S. national championships.

Widely regarded as an expert in fencing rules and regulations, Mr. Kolombatovich was named the chief of mission and team caption for the U.S. team at the 1998 and 1999 Junior and Cadet World Championships as well as the 1998 and 1999 Senior World Championships. He was also the U.S. chief of mission and team caption at the 1999 World University Games and the 1999 Pan American Games.

A native of New York, he attended New York University and was their fencing coach before moving to Columbia University in 1978. One of the longest-tenured coaches in U.S. collegiate (NCAA) fencing history, he began as assistant coach in 1978 and then in the following year became head coach of the Columbia University fencing team for a remarkable 32 seasons (1979-2011). Mr. Kolombatovich’s Columbia University fencers won 17 individual NCAA titles and several qualified for and fenced at the Olympic Games, including 2008 silver medallists James Williams and Erinn Smart. He led the Columbia “Lions” in winning consecutive U.S. collegiate combined national championships in 1992 and 1993, and national men’s titles in 1987, 1988 and 1989.

The fencing team at Columbia under Coach Kolombatovich was the most successful in the school’s 116-year history, and he earned them more than 25 championships as well as a combined 23 Ivy League championships. In all, his coaching produced 158 All-Ivy League honourees and 152 All-American athletes.

The FIE extends sincere condolences to Mr. Kolombatovich’s family, friends and USA Fencing on behalf of the global fencing community.

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