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Team USA Sets its Sights on Gold in Toronto

06/26/2019, 9:00pm CDT
By Kristen Henneman

Lee Kiefer will go for her 10th straight Pan American Championship title in Toronto.

(Colorado Springs, Colo.) – Twenty-five U.S. athletes will be vying for gold in Toronto, Canada at the Pan American Championships, which takes place from Thursday, June 27 through Tuesday, July 2.

The final international competition before the World Championships in Budapest, more than 250 athletes will be fighting for the six individual titles with 28 countries represented.

Team USA won 21 medals last year at the event, including 11 of the 12 golds, and sweeping the team event for just the second time in USA Fencing history.

Although each squad features at least one athlete competing at his or her first Pan Am Championships, the team also includes 11 past individual champions:

  • Lee Kiefer (Lexington, Ky. / Women’s Foil), nine-time Pan American Champion
  • Mariel Zagunis (Beaverton, Ore. / Women’s Saber), six-time Pan American Champion
  • Race Imboden (Brooklyn, N.Y. / Men’s Foil), five-time Pan American Champion
  • Kelley Hurley (San Antonio, Texas / Women’s Epee), four-time Pan American Champion
  • Eli Dershwitz (Sherborn, Mass. / Men’s Saber), three-time Pan American Champion
  • Courtney Hurley (San Antonio, Texas / Women’s Epee), three-time Pan American Champion
  • Gerek Meinhardt (San Francisco, Calif. / Men’s Foil), three-time Pan American Champion
  • Daryl Homer (Bronx, N.Y. / Men’s Saber), two-time Pan American Champion
  • Dagmara Wozniak (Avenel, N.J. / Women’s Saber), 2018 Pan American Champion
  • Alexander Massialas (San Francisco, Calif. / Men’s Foil), 2016 Pan American Champion
  • Nzingha Prescod (Brooklyn, N.Y. /Women's Foil), 2009 Pan American Champion

Below is a look at Team USA’s fencers in Toronto:

Women’s Foil
Individual: June 27

A very special milestone could be reached this year by two-time Olympian Kiefer, who will be going for her 10th consecutive gold medal. Unbeaten in direct elimination bouts since her first Pan Ams in as a 16 year old in 2010, Kiefer currently ranks No. 4 in the FIE World Rankings and won three medals on the World Cup circuit this season. The fencer not named Kiefer who last won at the event was Prescod in 2009. Prescod pushed Kiefer to a 15-14 bout last year in the semifinals and the World No. 14 has five Pan American Championship medals to her name, including bronze last year. Kiefer, Prescod and 2012 Olympian Nicole Ross (New York, N.Y.) will be the top three seeds entering the tournament as Ross ranks No. 16 in the world. Ross has a streak of her own to uphold as she has medaled at the last four Pan Ams. Four-time Junior World medalist Jackie Dubrovich (Hoboken, N.J.) will be making her debut at the event, and will be looking to build on her top-eight result at the Tauberbischofsheim World Cup last month.

The Canadians pose the biggest threat to keeping Team USA off the podium. Kelleigh Ryan (CAN) earned silver at the Pan American Championships last year. She and Alanna Goldie (CAN) each have three Pan Am medals while Eleanor Harvey (CAN), a top-eight finisher at the 2016 Olympic Games, currently ranks No. 22 in the world.

Team: June 30

The U.S. Women’s Foil Team has stood on the top step of the podium at the last 12 Pan American Championships. The reigning Senior World Champions are currently ranked No. 3 in the world and hold a 11-year gold medal streak with a USA-Canada final becoming the norm. Although the two teams have not fenced on the circuit this season, the United States has overcome the World No. 7 Canadians at the last 11 Zonal Championships.

Men’s Saber
Individual: June 27

Team USA has brought home individual gold in men’s saber from the Pan American Championships in four of the past five years. Prior to his silver medal at the World Championships last year, Dershwitz won his third Pan Am title. Looking to maintain his No. 1 world ranking, Dershwitz looks to repeat after two medals on the World Cup circuit, including silver at the last event, the Moscow Grand Prix. In 2017, Homer won his second gold medal at the event. Currently sitting on six Pan American Championship medals, the 2016 Olympic silver medalist is ranked No. 16 in the world and will be the second seed in Toronto. A bronze medalist in 2017, 2012 Olympian Jeff Spear (Wynantskill, N.Y.) is fencing for his fourth Zonal Championship medal while 2017 Junior Pan American Champion Khalil Thompson (Teaneck, N.J.) will be competing at his first Senor Pan American Championships and earned a top-32 finish in Madrid in May.

While Team USA has dominated the podium in recent years, Shaul Gordon (CAN) claimed silver last year and this season took a top-16 result in Madrid. Joseph Polossifakis (CAN), who won bronze two years ago and gold in 2012, also will be in the field.

Team: June 30

Team USA has never lost in the team event at a Pan American Championshiips. The top-seeded U.S. squad is seeking its first podium finish of the season with Canada entering as the second seed. The two teams met back in February at the Warsaw World Cup with Team USA coming out on top, 45-26.

Women’s Epee
Individual: June 28

London Olympic bronze medalists Kelley and Courtney Hurley have won gold in this event for seven of the last eight years with Kelly Hurley taking the championship in 2018. The gold marked the fourth title of her career, setting the record for most Pan Am epee titles for any U.S. epee fencer, male or female. This year, Kelley Hurley, who earned two-top eight results on the circuit and is ranked No. 10, will be going for the four-peat and her 10th overall Zonal Championship medal. Courtney Hurley, ranks just behind her older sister with three Pan American titles with the most recent coming in 2014. She also has nine career medals and is No. 8 in the world as the defending World Championship bronze medalist. Courtney Hurley also has momentum entering the tournament, medaling at two of the last three events on the World Cup circuit. Rio Olympian Kat Holmes (Washington, D.C.) has medaled at the Pan Am Championships five of the last six years and is looking to return to the podium at a Zonal Championships after a top-16 finish at the Doha Grand Prix earlier this year. Competing at her first Senior Pan American Championships, 2017 Junior World silver medalist Kasia Nixon (Los Angeles, Calif.) secured two top-32 results on the circuit this season.

Last year, Kelley Hurley was the only American on the podium with four countries winning medals. Besides Hurley, Isabel di Tella (ARG), who took silver last year, is the only 2018 medalist returning to the event. The only non-U.S. fencer to take gold in the last eight years was 2010 Senior World individual bronze medalist Nathalie Moellhausen (BRA) who earned the title in 2015. A former Senior World Team Champion for Italy, Moellhausen has earned three Pan Am medals during her career and won bronze at the Chengdu World Cup in March.

Team: July 1

The defending World Champions, Team USA is currently ranked No. 1 in the world and bookended the season with medals, taking bronze in Tallinn and silver at the last World Cup of the year in Dubai. The No. 2 seed will be Canada, which is ranked No. 15 in the world. Last year, the United States defeated Canada in the final, 45-33.

Men’s Foil
Individual: June 28

With eight straight individual Pan American Championship titles in this event to its credit, Team USA holds the top four seeds in the field with all four athletes earning a podium finish on the World Cup circuit this season. Ranked No. 2 in the world, 2016 Olympic team bronze medalist Imboden has five titles to his resume after taking gold last year and becoming the winningest U.S. man in any weapon at the Pan Am Championships. This season, Imboden brought home three medals on the circuit. With two medals on the circuit this season, Imboden’s teammate in Rio, Meinhardt, is ranked No. 6. In Toronto, Meinhardt looks to add to his 10 career medals, three of which are gold. Massialas, the 2016 Olympic silver medalist, won gold at this event leading up to the Rio Games and has eight career Pan Am medals. Now, he looks for his second medal of the season after taking bronze at the Cairo World Cup. Although Nick Itkin (Los Angeles, Calif.) is attending his first Senior Pan American Championships, the 2018 Junior World Champion found success on the circuit this season, winning two medals, including silver at the last event, the Shanghai Grand Prix.

While Team USA will look to end pools with the top four seeds to have a chance at sweeping the podium, Maximilien Van Haaster (CAN) is hoping for his second podium finish after winning silver last year. Brazil’s Heitor Shimbo and Guilherme Toldo also will be competing and won bronze medals in 2015 and 2014, respectively.

Team: July 1

Imboden, Meinhardt and Massialas will join Miles Chamley-Watson (New York, N.Y.) in the team event. The same squad that won bronze in Rio and is currently ranked No. 1 in the world, Team USA won gold at three of the five team events this season. Last year, Team USA dominated the competition, winning its three bouts, 45-8, 45-20 and 45-14 to take the squad’s 12th straight Pan Am title.

Men’s Epee
Individual: June 29

The four members of Team USA only have three Pan Am Championship appearances between them, but don’t count out the United States in reaching the podium. In their first Zonal Championship appearances last year, Jake Hoyle (New York, N.Y.) and Curtis McDowald (Jamaica, N.Y.) both won bronze. Hoyle is currently ranked No. 8 in the world, winning two bronze medals on the World Cup circuit this season. Right behind Hoyle at No. 9, McDowald also brought home hardware this year with bronze in Buenos Aires. A 2011 Junior World team member, James Kaull (New York, N.Y.) is making his Pan Am Championships debut in Toronto, but took a top-32 result at the Cali Grand Prix. Adam Rodney (New Orleans, La.), who competed in Canada at the 2017 Zonal Championships, earned two top-64 finishes on the circuit this season.

Last year’s gold medalist at the event was Jesus Andres Lugones Ruggeri (ARG), who overcame 2012 Olympic Champion Ruben Limardo Gascon (VEN) in the final. Limardo Gascon currently ranks No. 4 in the world and has eight career Pan Am Championship medals. Rio Olympian John Edison Rodriguez (COL) won his first Pan Am medal with a silver in 2017 and had two top-16 finishes on the circuit this season.

Team: July 2

Team USA looks to defend its title after defeating Venezuela last year for gold. The United States earned top-eight results in four of the five events this season, going 2-1 against countries from the Pan American zone in three tight matches. The Unites States defeated Colombia, 38-36, in January and Cuba, 45-43 in March, but fell to Venezuela, 45-42, at the same tournament. Venezuela likely serves as Team USA’s biggest threat to repeat as it claimed gold in 2016 and 2017.

Women’s Saber
Individual: June 29

Winning her first career Pan Am Championship gold last year, Wozniak has medaled at six of the last nine Zonal Championships. She enters her 13th appearance at the event ranked No. 15 in the world and took three top-16 finishes this season. In an All-American final last year, Wozniak defeated Eliza Stone (Princeton, N.J.), who went on to win bronze at the World Championships and is No. 7 in the world rankings. Stone will be searching for her first Pan Am gold and fourth career medal at the event. This season, she earned a top-eight finish at the Cairo Grand Prix and secured three top-16 finishes. Two-time Olympic Champion Zagunis has 10 Pan Am championship medals on her resume with her last gold coming in 2015. She hasn’t competed individually at the event since 2016 after giving birth to her daughter Sunday, but is looking for a return to the podium this year. Aleksandra Shelton (Tigard, Ore.) will be fencing at her first Pan Am Championships, but has three European Championship medals. Now competing for Team USA, she earned top-32 results at three events on the circuit this season.

Maria Belen Perez Maurice (ARG) won gold at the 2014 Pan Ams and secured a place on the podium last year next to three members of Team USA. At 17 years old, Natalia Botello (MEX) could surprise the field, finding success at the junior level as the back-to-back Junior Pan American Champion and a two-time Junior World medalist. Alejandra Jhonay Benitez Romero (VEN) also has two career bronze medals from this tournament with the last coming in 2013.

Team: July 2

The defending champions, Team USA will be the top seed in Toronto and ranks No. 4 in the world after just missing the podium twice this season. Although they haven’t fenced against each other this season, the biggest threat to the United States’ taking the top step of the podium will be Mexico, which won the title in 2017.

The complete team roster is as follows:

Men’s Epee
Jake Hoyle (New York, N.Y.)
James Kaull (New York, N.Y.)
Curtis McDowald (Jamaica, N.Y.)
Adam Rodney (New Orleans, La.)

Women’s Epee
Kat Holmes (Washington, D.C.)
Courtney Hurley (San Antonio, Texas)
Kelley Hurley (San Antonio, Texas)
Kasia Nixon (Los Angeles, Calif.)

Men’s Foil
Race Imboden (Brooklyn N.Y.)
Alexander Massialas (San Francisco, Calif.)
Gerek Meinhardt (San Francisco, Calif.)
Individual Only: Nick Itkin (Los Angeles, Calif.)
Team Only: Miles Chamley-Watson (New York, N.Y.)

Women’s Foil
Jackie Dubrovich (Hoboken, N.J.)
Lee Kiefer (Lexington, Ky.)
Nzingha Prescod (Brooklyn, N.Y.)
Nicole Ross (New York, N.Y.)

Men’s Saber
Eli Dershwitz (Sherborn, Mass.)
Daryl Homer (Bronx, N.Y.)
Jeff Spear (Wynantskill, N.Y.)
Khalil Thompson (Teaneck, N.J.)

Women’s Saber
Aleksandra Shelton (Tigard, Ore.)
Eliza Stone (Princeton, N.J.)
Dagmara Wozniak (Avenel, N.J.)
Mariel Zagunis (Beaverton, Ore.)

Team Cadre

Team Leader
Kate Reisinger (Colorado Springs, Colo.)

Team Captain
Daria Schneider (Ithaca, N.Y.)

Sports Medicine
Jeremy Summers (Mount Sinai, N.Y.)
Adam Thompson (Thompson, Ind.)
Ashley Bruley (Long Beach, Calif.)

Liz Morey (Chapel Hill, N.C.)

Men’s Epee Coach
Kornel Udvarhelyi (Glendale, N.Y.)

Women’s Epee Coach
Andrey Geva (Houston, Texas)

Men’s Foil Coach
Greg Massialas (San Francisco, Calif.)

Women’s Foil Coach
Buckie Leach (South Bend, Ind.)

Men’s Saber Coach
Zoran Tulum (Natick, Mass.)

Women’s Saber Coach
Zoran Tulum (Natick, Mass.)

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