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U.S. fencing wraps up its most successful world champs ever

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The U.S. fencing team had its best world championships ever, earning six medals with two golds in Wuxi, China.

The Americans won the women’s team events in épée and foil for the first time. Courtney Hurley (épée) and Eliza Stone (sabre) added bronze medals. World sabre No. 1 Eli Dershwitz took silver, while the men’s foil team added silver on the final day Friday.

The total surpassed the previous U.S. record of five medals at 2015 Worlds.

The Americans performed well in Wuxi despite getting no individual medals from its Rio Olympic medalists and past world champions.

Mariel Zagunis, the most decorated fencer in U.S. history with four combined individual Olympic and world titles, competed only in the team sabre event, where the U.S. was fifth.

The 33-year-old is working her way back from October childbirth and was ranked fifth nationally when the four individual roster spots for worlds were chosen. A fifth fencer is eligible for the team event.

Olympic silver medalists Daryl Homer (sabre) and Alex Massialas (foil) lost in the round of 16 and round of 64, respectively.

Ibtihaj Muhammad, who in Rio became the first American to compete in an Olympics in a hijab, has not competed at the top international level since the 2017 World Championships. She just published an autobiography.

Dershwitz’s rise is worth noting. He debuted at the Olympics in Rio as a rising Harvard sophomore and lost in the first round.

In 2015, Dershwitz became the first U.S. man to earn a world junior sabre title, but he had never made it past the round of 32 at senior worlds until this year. Dershwitz’s first World Cup wins in November and February combined with his silver medal this week vaulted him to No. 1 in the world rankings.

Hurley, who lost opening bouts at the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, earned her first individual medal at her 10th world championships appearance. She also became the first U.S. épée fencer to earn a world medal.

Stone’s bronze was also a surprise. She is the fourth-ranked U.S. woman in sabre and had never made it past the round of 16 in three previous world appearances. Stone narrowly missed the Rio Olympic team but is now ranked 12th in the world.

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April Ross, Alix Klineman back atop Olympic beach volleyball qualifying

April Ross, Alix Klineman
FIVB World Tour
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Two-time Olympic medalist April Ross and new partner Alix Klineman moved back on top of the U.S. Olympic beach volleyball qualifying standings by winning an event in Itapema, Brazil this week.

Ross, who split from Kerri Walsh Jennings in 2017, and Klineman beat Canadians Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes 25-23, 18-21, 15-10 in Sunday’s final for their third title in 11 FIVB World Tour tournaments together.

“Every victory is important, but this counts for more,” Klineman said, according to the FIVB. “We want to send a message and we want to be consistently the best.

Ross and Klineman supplanted Walsh Jennings and her new partner, Brooke Sweat, for the lead in the early U.S. Olympic qualifying rankings with still more than a year of events ahead.

1. Ross/Klineman – 3,240 (5 events played)
2. Walsh Jennings/Sweat – 3,100 (7 events)
3. Day/Flint – 2,180 (5 events)
4. Hughes/Ross — 2,000 (4 events)
5. Larsen/Stockman — 1,840 (5 events)
6. Sponcil/Claes — 1,600 (3 events)

Each team’s 12 best results from Sept. 1, 2018, to June 14, 2020, go into the Olympic qualifying rankings. That means Ross and Klineman are comfortably in front, having played two fewer events than Walsh Jennings and Sweat, who lost in the quarterfinals in Itapema.

The top two U.S. pairs come June 15, 2020, provided they’re ranked high enough internationally, will qualify for Tokyo. Most of the qualifying events, including the ones with the most points available, are still to come this summer.

Ross, 36, picked up Klineman, 29, after Walsh Jennings didn’t join her in signing a domestic AVP contract in 2017. The 6-foot-5 Klineman primarily played indoor the previous decade, including at Stanford from 2007-10 after being the Gatorade National Player of the Year coming out of high school.

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Katie Ledecky extends 5-year win streak

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Katie Ledecky extended a five-year domestic win streak by taking the 200m freestyle at the Tyr Pro Swim Series at Bloomington on Saturday.

In her last full meet before July’s world championships, Ledecky clocked 1:55.80 to beat training partner Simone Manuel by 1.44 seconds for her second win in as many days. Ledecky is also entered in Sunday’s 800m free on the last day of the meet.

Ledecky, who also cruised to a 400m free victory on Friday, ranks third in the world in the 200m free this year, behind Australian Ariarne Titmus and Swede Sarah Sjöström (the Olympic silver medalist who is not expected to race the 200m free at worlds).

Ledecky, a five-time Olympic champion, hasn’t lost a 200m, 400m, 800m or 1500m free final at a domestic meet since Allison Schmitt beat her in a 200m free on Jan. 18, 2014 when Ledecky was 16 years old.

BLOOMINGTON: Full Results

But Ledecky lost the two biggest 200m frees of this Olympic cycle so far, at the 2017 World Championships and the 2018 Pan Pacific Championships. Italian veteran Federica Pellegrini handed Ledecky her first individual final defeat at a major international meet at 2017 Worlds.

Ledecky dropped to third in the 200m free at Pan Pacs in Tokyo last year, beaten by younger swimmers Taylor Ruck of Canada and Rikako Ikee of Japan.

Ruck, who like Ledecky trains at Stanford, is in Bloomington, but she chose not to swim the 200m free on Saturday. She instead swam the 200m backstroke about 45 minutes after the 200m free and was upset by 17-year-old Regan Smith. Smith won in 2:06.47, moving to No. 3 in the world this year.

In other events Saturday, Ella Eastin captured the 400m individual medley in 4:37.18, taking 1.25 seconds off her personal best and moving to fifth in the world this year. Eastin is not on the world championships team after an untimely bout with mono before qualifying meets last summer.

Blake Pieroni won the men’s 200m free in 1:47.25. No American ranks in the top 20 in the world this year. World silver medalist Townley Haas did not enter Bloomington.

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