Mariel Zagunis

Mariel Zagunis wins silver at World Fencing Championships (video)

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The most decorated U.S. fencer ever nearly returned to the top of her sport for the first time in four years Friday, but she couldn’t get past the world’s best.

Two-time Olympic champion Mariel Zagunis lost in the World Championships sabre final in Kazan, Russia, seeking her first World title since 2010.

Zagunis, ranked No. 2 in the world, fell 15-12 to top-ranked Ukrainian Olga Kharlan, who won her second straight World title. Zagunis picked up silver, her 11th career Worlds medal and fifth individual, after finishing fourth at the 2012 Olympics and losing in the quarterfinals of the 2013 Worlds.

“I’m always disappointed in any competition for not getting gold,” Zagunis said in a phone interview shortly after stepping off the podium. “I put pretty high standards on myself. Overall today, I’m pleased with the way I fenced. It was a long, hard-fought day to get to the gold-medal match [having to win five matches before the final].”

Kharlan and Zagunis played to seven ties in their final, with Kharlan falling off the strip on one point and doing the splits on the next after a brief delay. Kharlan took control from 11-all for the victory.

“I knew that there was very little room for error,” Zagunis said. “I gave up a few missed opportunities, and she capitalized on that. … Today went according to plan [overall]. It was still a close bout with me and Olga. It could have gone either way. A few touches here and there.”

Zagunis and Kharlan previously met in the 2012 Olympic bronze-medal match, where Kharlan came from behind to keep Zagunis from winning her third straight Olympic medal in the event (Zagunis won the first two golds in 2004 and 2008).

Zagunis’ semifinal in Kazan was also close, but she pulled away from 10-all to beat Russian Yana Egorian 15-12 to clinch a medal (fencing worlds award double bronzes).

“It feels really good to be back on the podium,” Zagunis said. “That’s one thing I’m taking away from today that’s a huge positive.”

Zagunis won the U.S.’ first medal of the World Championships on the first day of finals competition. The event continues through Wednesday, highlighted by reigning World foil champion Miles Chamley-Watson going on Saturday.

The World Championships are the end of Zagunis’ season. She’ll take a break and then try to qualify for her fourth Olympic Team beginning in April.

“Compared to last year’s World Championships and the way I performed there, this is a really big step forward for me,” Zagunis said.

In 2016, Zagunis could become the oldest U.S. Olympic women’s individual fencing medalist ever. She carried the U.S. flag at the 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony.

Zagunis may continue to fence beyond the Rio de Janeiro Games.

“I don’t want to say Rio will be the last one, because who knows what’s going to happen there,” she said. “Fencing the way I fenced today kind of reinvigorated me.”

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Miles Chamley-Watson takes fencing to New York City streets (video)

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Miles Chamley-Watson may be an Olympian and World champion, but many people with those titles can walk the streets of New York with nobody looking twice.

It’s a different story when he’s in competition uniform.

Chamley-Watson showed just how useful his fencing training, stances and equipment — especially his foil blade — can be.

The 25-year-old Chamley-Watson just missed an Olympic medal three years ago, finishing fourth with the U.S. foil team in London. He also fell in the round of 32 in the individual foil.

Chamley-Watson, a 6-foot-4, tattooed model, rebounded to win the 2013 World Championship individually. 

However, he is not assured of making the Rio Olympic team.

Chamley-Watson is ranked No. 11 in the world, behind three other Americans — No. 1 Race Imboden, No. 3 Alexander Massialas and No. 8 Gerek Meinhardt.
A maximum of three Americans can compete individually in Rio in the foil. Three would also compete in the team event, with, possibly, a fourth fencer as a replacement athlete who could be subbed in and out during the team event rounds.

MORE FENCING: How much longer will Mariel Zagunis compete?

Boules bids for 2024 Olympic inclusion

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 (AP) — The sport of boules has launched a bid to be included in the 2024 Olympics.

The Bowls Sports World Confederation, which is recognized by the International Olympic Committee, is campaigning on behalf of three disciplines: the French petanque, the Boule Lyonnaise and the Raffa, a version of the game popular in Italy.

According to the international world games association, about 20 million people regularly play boules in France and Italy, and more than 2 million players are licensed in 150 other countries.

Under new IOC rules, Olympic host cities can propose the addition of one or more sports to their games. Paris and Rome are among the five cities bidding for the 2024 Games, along with Los Angeles, Budapest and Hamburg.

MORE: Complete 2024 Olympic bidding coverage