Living Stronger: Fencing coach, 56, sets an example by out-working everyone

Master fencer

Living Stronger is a “CBS Evening News” series celebrating the people leading the way to longevity -- and inspiring the rest of us.

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. -- Kristin Vines is a no-nonsense fencing coach, one of the best in the nation.

She drills her Baylor School team in Chattanooga, Tennessee, on the tactics and techniques that have led to 17 state titles, reports CBS News correspondent Don Dahler.

Kristin Vines coaches a student. CBS News

“Do you think that people who do not fence understand the intricacies of the sport?” Dahler asked.

“Absolutely not. They say, ‘Oh you are a fencer,’” Vines said, waving her hand in the air. “Yeah, they don’t get it.”

But the 56-year-old isn’t content to just direct others and stalk the sidelines. Vines is a four-time USA Fencing champion who still competes.

Kristin Vines CBS News

In fact, she won the gold at last year’s national championship for women age 50 to 59.

“Which is better, when you are in the competition or when you see them?” Dahler asked.

“Oh I rather compete than watch them compete. I can’t stand to watch them lose,” she said.

At 6 feet 2 inches, Vines says she may be a bit slower than her opponents, but her secret to living stronger is to out-work them.

“When you began this sport 30 years ago could you ever have imagined that you would still be competing at this age?” Dahler asked.

“Nope, I figured that I would have moved onto something else,” she said.

Kristin Vines in her Latin classroom CBS News

And if coaching and winning championships are not enough, Vines says there is also a correlation between her obscure sport and the difficult, dead language she teaches: Latin.

“It is a life lesson. How do you react to losing? How do you react to failing? Do you quit or do you get up and try again? And it is the kids who are willing to get up and try again where I know that I made a difference,” she said.

Seth Vestal CBS News

One of those she made a difference with is junior Seth Vestal. He said that because of her Latin class, he took up fencing.

“I have a blast when I fence. One of the reasons why I do fence is because she is the coach,” Vestal said.

“How long are you going to gear up and pick up that foil and go onto that strip and compete?” Dahler asked Vines.

“Until my knees give out, and once my knees gives out hopefully by then they will be able to put new ones in that will still work and I will just keep going,” she replied.

Which means for years to come, Kristin Vines will continue to be a towering presence on the fencing strip and in the lives of her students.