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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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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 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.

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MORE: Mariel Zagunis announces pregnancy

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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