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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Sam Girard, Olympic short track champion, surprisingly retires at age 22

Sam Girard
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Sam Girard, who avoided a three-skater pileup to win the PyeongChang Olympic 1000m, retired from short track speed skating at age 22, saying he lost the desire to compete.

“I leave my sport satisfied with what I have accomplished,” Girard said in a press release. “This decision was very well thought through. I am at peace with the choice that I’ve made and am ready to move onto the next step.”

Girard and girlfriend and fellow Olympic skater Kasandra Bradette announced their careers end together in a tearful French-language press conference in Quebec on Friday.

Girard detailed the decision in a letter, the sacrifices made to pursue skating. Notably, moving from his hometown of Ferland-et-Boilleau, population 600, to Montreal in 2012. His hobbies had been of the outdoor variety, but he now had to drive an hour and a half from the training center just to go fishing.

In PyeongChang, Girard led for most of the 1000m final, which meant he avoided chaos behind him on the penultimate lap of the nine-lap race. Hungarian Liu Shaolin Sandor‘s inside pass took out South Koreans Lim Hyo-Jun and Seo Yi-Ra, leaving just Girard and American John-Henry Krueger.

Girard maintained his lead, crossing .214 in front of Krueger to claim the title. He also finished fourth in the 500m and 1500m and earned bronze in the relay.

“My first Olympics, won a gold medal, can’t ask for more,” he said afterward.

Though Girard was already accomplished — earning individual silver medals at the 2016 and 2017 Worlds — he came to PyeongChang as the heir apparent to Charles Hamelin, a roommate on the World Cup circuit whom Girard likened to a big brother. Girard earned another world silver medal this past season.

Hamelin, after taking individual gold in 2010 and 2014, left PyeongChang without an individual medal in what many expected to be his last Olympics. However, he went back on a retirement vow and continued to skate through the 2018-19 season.

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Maia, Alex Shibutani extend break from ice dance competition

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Brother-sister ice dance duo Maia and Alex Shibutani will not compete next season, the Olympic bronze medalists announced via U.S. Figure Skating on Friday.

“We’re healthier and stronger than we were after the Olympics, and we’re continuing to push ourselves,” Maia Shibutani said in a press release.

“We’ve continued to skate a lot, and we feel like we’ve benefited from some time away to create in different environments and focus on experiences that can help us grow,” Alex said.

The “Shib Sibs” won the U.S. title in 2016 and 2017. They won their first world medal in 2011 (bronze) before reaching the world podium again in 2016 and 2017 with silver and bronze, respectively.

They most recently competed at the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics, where they earned bronze both individually and in the team event.

Maia and Alex Shibutani are now the second ice dance medalists from PyeongChang to announce they’ll sit out at least part of next season. Gold medalists Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada will tour instead this fall and are not expected to return to competition.

The siblings haven’t stayed away from the ice entirely in their break from the sport, though — they’ve also been touring and performing in shows.

The Shibutanis became the second set of siblings to earn Olympic ice dance medals after France’s Isabelle and Paul Duchesnay in 1992.

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