World Fencing Championships

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Ibtihaj Muhammad and U.S. fencers eliminated at Worlds

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Ibtihaj Muhammad lost to Germany’s Ann-Sophie Kindler, 15-12, in her opening bout of the women’s individual sabre, Round of 64, at the 2017 World Fencing Championships in Leipzig, Germany. Muhammad finished the event ranked 36th. Her best finish at Worlds in individual sabre came in 2013 when she finished 18th.

Famously becoming the first U.S. athlete to compete at an Olympic Games while wearing a hijab, Muhammad stood on the fencing team sabre event podium at the 2016 Rio Olympics, winning bronze with fellow fencers Monica Aksamit, Dagmara Wozniak and Mariel Zagunis.

Also appearing in the women’s individual sabre Round of 64 for the U.S. at Worlds, Monica Aksamit and Dagmara Wozniak won their opening bouts. Wozniak, currently the highest ranking U.S. fencer in sabre at 18th in the world, defeated China’s Jia Xiaoye and Aksamit beat Hong Kong’s Chan Yin Fei – both contests ending with a score of 15-9.

The Americans were unable to make it two-in-a-row after advancing to the Round of 32, as both fell to their opponents. Wozniak was beaten in a close battle, 14-15, by Russia’s Sofia Pozdniakova while Aksamit was knocked out by Japan’s Norika Tamura, 11-15.

Mariel Zagunis, one of only two U.S. fencers to win Olympic gold – her first coming in 2004 – was not on the pistes in Leipzig. This year is the first time Zagunis has been absent for a world championships since 1999. Back in May of 2017, Zagunis announced she was pregnant, expecting the birth of her first child in October. Zagunis is planning her return to competition and for a run at what would be her fifth Olympic Games in Tokyo in 2020.

Muhammad, Aksamit and Wozniak will be back in action at Worlds on July 25 when they are joined by Anne-Elizabeth Stone to compete in the women’s team sabre event.

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U.S. fencing wins its most medals ever at a World Championships

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The U.S. fencing team won five medals at the World Championships last week, its most ever at a single Worlds, which could portend similar success at the Rio Olympics.

Alexander Massialas (silver, foil), Daryl Homer (silver, sabre), Gerek Meinhardt (foil, bronze) and Nzingha Prescod (foil, bronze) earned individual medals. The women’s sabre team also captured bronze.

The previous U.S. best for Worlds medals came in 2006, when Rebecca WardMariel Zagunis and Sada Jacobson earned gold, silver and bronze in the individual sabre and were part of the silver-medal-winning sabre team.

In 2008, the U.S. Olympic fencing team took home six medals, including a women’s sabre medals sweep. In 2012, the tally was one bronze medal.

The U.S. fencing team earned the five medals in Moscow last week despite its biggest star, the two-time Olympic champion Zagunis, being upset in the round of 16, her lowest Worlds finish in 10 years.

More medals are awarded at Worlds than at the Olympics. At Worlds, the program includes 12 events with individual event bronze medals given to both semifinal losers.

At the Olympics, the program includes 10 events with semifinal losers facing off for one bronze medal. The 2016 Olympic program does not include men’s team sabre or women’s team foil.

U.S. fencers could be boosted by the Olympics taking place in Brazil, which is closer to the U.S. than it is to the fencing world powers in Europe and Asia (Russia won nine medals at Worlds; Italy five).

The four U.S. fencers who won individual medals last week are all 2012 Olympians who are 25 years or younger.

Another American, Race Imboden, is ranked No. 1 in the world in men’s foil. American Miles Chamley-Watson won the 2013 World title in that event. Both Imboden and Chamley-Watson are 2012 Olympians and age 25 or younger.

There’s also women’s foil fencer Lee Kiefer, a 21-year-old 2012 Olympian, who is ranked No. 4 in the world.

At the London Olympics, in only two sports did the U.S. have more than four different individual medal winners (track and field and swimming). The No. 3 sport for overall U.S. medals was gymnastics with six.

Fencing may prove a very valuable sport for the U.S. as it looks to top the overall medal table for a sixth straight Olympics.

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Mariel Zagunis has lowest World Championships finish since 2005

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Two-time Olympic fencing champion Mariel Zagunis was upset in the round of 16 at the World Championships in Moscow on Tuesday, marking her lowest finish at Worlds or the Olympics in 10 years.

Zagunis, 30, was beaten by Hungary’s Anna Marton 15-9. Marton, 20 and ranked 14th in the world, is the youngest women’s sabre fencer in the top 45 of the world rankings.

South Korean 2012 Olympic champion Kim Ji-yeon lost in the round of 32. Two-time reigning World champion Olga Kharlan of Ukraine lost in the round of 16.

Zagunis took silver to Kharlan at the 2014 World Championships and had reached at least the quarterfinals of every Worlds and Olympics since 2005, when countrywoman Becca Ward beat her in the Worlds round of 16.

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.

In men’s event, Daryl Homer won silver for the first Worlds sabre medal by a U.S. man, falling in the final to Russian Aleksei Yakimenko.

Homer, who finished sixth at the 2012 Olympics and was eliminated in the round of 32 at the 2013 and 2014 Worlds, beat top-ranked South Korean Gu Bongil in the quarterfinals.

The World Fencing Championships continue through Sunday, with the team sabre events Friday.

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