Mariel Zagunis

Getty Images

Mariel Zagunis qualifies for fifth Olympic fencing team, first as a mom

Leave a comment

Mariel Zagunis, the most decorated U.S. fencer in history, is going to a fifth Olympics at age 35 — and her first since giving birth to daughter Sunday Noelle in October 2017.

Zagunis, who owns four combined individual Olympic and world sabre titles, qualified after a satisfying weekend of competition in Athens, site of her Olympic debut and breakthrough gold medal in 2004.

On Saturday, she won a World Cup event for the first time since Jan. 29, 2016 and since becoming a mom. Zagunis dominated, ceding fewer than 10 touches in all six of her bouts and winning half of them by 15-6 or better.

Then on Sunday, the U.S. clinched qualification for the Olympic sabre team event. That meant three U.S. women were guaranteed individual spots in Tokyo. Zagunis has enough U.S. ranking points to secure one of those spots well before a late April deadline.

Zagunis is in line to become the oldest U.S. Olympic fencer since 1996. The U.S. fencing record of six Olympic appearances is shared by Norman Cohn-Armitage and Jan York-Romary, according to Olympedia and the OlyMADMen.

Four U.S. fencers previously qualified for the Tokyo Games — Lee KieferEli DershwitzAlexander Massialas and Gerek Meinhardt — with plenty more to come in the next two months.

Zagunis, one of two U.S. fencers to win an Olympic gold medal, was unsure about continuing for another cycle after being eliminated in the round of 16 in Rio. Four months later, she committed to a Tokyo 2020 run.

“I’m not fulfilled,” Zagunis, the 2012 U.S. Olympic Opening Ceremony flag bearer, said in December 2016, according to the Portland Tribune. “That’s part of who I am. I always want to keep going. I always want to do more. It’s a blessing and a curse to feel dissatisfied with not winning all the time.”

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: List of U.S. athletes qualified for Tokyo Olympics

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

Getty Images
Leave a comment

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.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: 20 U.S. athletes to watch for Tokyo 2020 Olympics

Ibtihaj Muhammad and U.S. fencers eliminated at Worlds

Getty Images
1 Comment

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 2015 when she finished 13th.

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.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Mariel Zagunis announces pregnancy