Nick Itkin joins U.S. foil fencing greats to win world championships medal

Nick Itkin

Last year, Nick Itkin broke through in the U.S.’ deepest fencing discipline to make his first Olympic team at age 21. At the world championships in Cairo on Wednesday, he joined the list of recent American foil greats to win an individual world championships medal.

Itkin took bronze, becoming the first U.S. man to win an individual Olympic or world championships fencing medal since 2018.

He routed 2018 World champion Alessio Foconi of Italy 15-5 in the quarterfinals before falling to defending world champion Enzo Lefort of France 15-14 in the semis. Lefort repeated as gold medalist. There are no bronze-medal bouts at world championships, so all semifinalists are guaranteed a medal.

For the 2010s, a quartet defined U.S. men’s foil. Miles Chamley-WatsonRace Imboden, Alexander Massialas and Gerek Meinhardt made up the Olympic team in 2012 and 2016 and made up world championships medal-winning teams in 2013, 2017, 2018 and 2019.

Imboden, Massialas and Meinhardt were each ranked No. 1 in the world at different points. Chamley-Watson, Massialas and Meinhardt all won individual world championships medals.

In 2013, Chamley-Watson became the first U.S. male fencer to win a world title. In 2016, Massialas, then ranked No. 1 in the world, lost in the Olympic final trying to become the first U.S. man to win an Olympic fencing title in the modern era of weapons.

Itkin, the first U.S. citizen from a family that came to the U.S. from Ukraine, shook things up last year by making the Olympic team over Chamley-Watson and making the roster of three for the individual event over Imboden. He was the only American man to win a foil bout in Tokyo but then lost in his second round. Later, the team took bronze.

Itkin, a two-time NCAA individual foil champion at Notre Dame, entered worlds as the highest-ranked U.S. man in foil at No. 11 in the world.

“We’ve won a lot of stuff together, and he’s proven that that system is going to be passed on and he’ll pass it on as well,” Imboden said after the Tokyo Olympic team medal, according to USA Fencing.

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Lee Kiefer follows Olympic fencing title with world championships medal

Lee Kiefer

Lee Kiefer, who in Tokyo became the second U.S. woman to win an Olympic fencing gold medal, claimed foil bronze at the world championships in Cairo on Tuesday.

Kiefer, 28 and ranked No. 1 in the world, won her first four bouts before falling to Italian veteran Arianna Errigo 15-14 in the semifinals. Kiefer rallied from an 11-4 deficit to take a 14-13 lead against Errigo, the 2012 Olympic silver medalist and nine-time individual world championships medalist.

Frenchwoman Ysaora Thibus defeated Errigo 15-10 in the final. At fencing worlds, there is no bronze-medal bout. All semifinalists earn a medal.

Kiefer earned her second individual world championships medal and her first since 2011 (also bronze). She became the first American to win an individual world medal since 2018.

Last year, Kiefer joined Mariel Zagunis as U.S. women to win Olympic fencing gold. She trained during the pandemic on a strip she helped build in her parents’ basement.

Zagunis, the 2004 and 2008 Olympic sabre champion and the most decorated fencer in U.S. history, has not competed internationally since the Tokyo Games, where she lost in the quarterfinals. She did not qualify for a world championships team for the first time since 2000, when she was 15 years old.

“She is not done yet,” her agent said last month after the world team was named. “She has been on hiatus attending to a personal matter, a very good one.”

Kiefer’s husband, Gerek Meinhardt, a two-time Olympic team foil bronze medalist, competes in the individual foil at worlds on Wednesday.

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Russian fencing champion won’t compete at Olympics without flag, anthem

Sofia Velikaya

Sofya Velikaya, a Russian Olympic fencing champion and Opening Ceremony flagbearer last year, reportedly said she will not compete at the Games without Russia’s flag and anthem.

“Everyone should be on an equal footing — to perform under their own flag and with their own anthem,” Velikaya said, according to an Inside the Games translation of a Russian news agency TASS report. “Now the Olympic Movement is a big question. Until equal conditions are created, I would not go to the Games.”

Russian athletes’ ban from competing with the national flag and anthem at major international competitions due to the nation’s doping violations ends in December.

They were able to compete as neutral athletes or under the names of the Russian Olympic Committee or their national federations until the invasion of Ukraine, after which most Olympic sports federations banned Russia and Belarus athletes indefinitely. That included the International Fencing Federation (FIE).

Velikaya, 36, won team sabre gold at the last two Olympics and individual sabre silver at the last three Olympics. In Tokyo, Russian athletes competed under the Russian Olympic Committee name and without the Russian flag and anthem.

Velikaya carried a white flag with the Russian Olympic Committee logo into the Opening Ceremony, leading the delegation.

Velikaya took breaks from competition after the 2012 and 2016 Olympics to have a child.

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