(Toronto, Canada) – Last year, Kelley Hurley (San Antonio, Texas) and Race Imboden (Brooklyn, N.Y.) set USA Fencing records with their Pan American Championship gold medals. This year, they won again to extend those marks.
Winning her fourth straight and fifth overall Pan Am title, Hurley, a 2012 Olympic team bronze medalist, has the most Pan Am épée titles of any U.S. fencer in history, male or female. The winningest U.S. man in any weapon at the Pan American Championships, 2016 Olympic team bronze medalist Imboden clinched his sixth gold medal in the men’s foil event and eighth Pan Am medal overall.
Next to Imboden on the podium were his Rio teammates Gerek Meinhardt (San Francisco, Calif.) and Alex Massialas (San Francisco, Calif.) with both claiming bronze.
Team USA now has seven medals in the first two days of competition, including all four golds.
“I think men’s foil has been really dominant at the Pan Am Championships especially and I’m always happy to share the podium with my teammates,” Imboden said. “The guys fenced really well … We’re always consistent. We’re always one of the top guys. We know that and we showed it again here.”
Imboden didn’t give up more than eight points in a bout all day, going undefeated in pools with a +26 indicator to take the No. 1 seed.
After cruising past Joaquin Espinoza (PER), 15-6, in the table of 32, Imboden bested Vicente Otayza (CHI), 15-4, and Blake Broszus (CAN), 15-8.
In the semifinals, Imboden faced Meinhardt, setting up a bout between World No.2 and No. 6. Meinhardt took an early 5-2 lead, but Imboden scored four straight points to the lead, 6-5. Up 8-7, Imboden found another gear, scoring the final seven points to secure a place in the gold medal final.
“Gerek is a tough guy. He comes out so fast,” Imboden said. “I had to warm up a lot. We took a long, long break and then we had to come back and I just had to get in the zone and I’m really happy with how I handled the progress of the match. A fencing bout progresses; you have to deal with what the person is changing, so I was happy that I was able to make really solid adjustments and win against a guy who’s one of the best fencers in the world, so it gives me extra pride on the day. It’s tough because he’s my teammate, but it’s pride because he’s such a good fencer.”
Fencing 2014 Pan Am bronze medalist Guilherme Toldo (BRA), Imboden scored his first touch four seconds in and never looked back, jumping out to a 13-3 lead and winning, 15-4 for his eighth Pan Am podium finish.
“I wanted to prove that I was the guy to beat there and that I wanted to have a dominant final,” Imboden said. “I stayed focused the whole match and the trick is when you’re dominating an opponent, sometimes you can let it go – you can let a few points go here and there. I wanted to stay focused the whole time. Toldo is a guy I’ve fenced a lot over many years here in Pan Ams. I think he was a little tired. He had a tough, tough day, but this one was mine and I proved it in the last match.”
Meinhardt, who is a three-time Pan American Champion and now an 11-time medalist at the event, made quick work of his early direct elimination bouts, defeating Gustavo Alarcon (CHI), 15-4; Johan Mora (VEN), 15-5; and Victor Leon (VEN),15-4.
“It feels good,” said Meinhardt of his bronze. “You always go to a tournament with the goal of winning, but bronze is still good and Race fenced really well today, so I’m happy for him and looking forward to World Championships in a few weeks.”
The 2016 Olympic silver medalist, Massialas went 6-0 in pools to take the No. 3 seed. He then gave up just nine points in his next three bouts. He dominated his bout against Felipe Alvear (CHI), 15-2, before taking quick victories against Eli Schenkel (CAN), 15-3, and Carlos M. Padua (PUR), 15-4.
Massialas looked poised to take on Imboden in the final as he built a 13-7 lead over Toldo in the semifinals, but he couldn’t hold on and was outtouched, 15-14.
The podium finish is the ninth of Massialas’ career at the Pan American Championships.
“It feels great to be on the podium,” Massialas said. “Any time you walk away with a medal, you should keep your head held high. I’m really proud to stand up there with Gerek and Race. We’ve been doing this for so long, but it’s always an honor to stand on the podium with them and listen to the national anthem.”
Making his Senior Pan American Championships debut, 2018 Junior World Champion Nick Itkin (Los Angeles, Calif.) qualified second out of pools, and with Meinhardt at No. 4, Team USA had a chance to sweep the podium.
Itkin posted a 15-3 victory over Raul Arizaga (MEX) in the table of 32 and overcame Augusto Antonio Servello (ARG), 15-10, the following round.
One win from a guaranteed medal, Itkin fenced Toldo in one of the most exciting bouts of the day. Itkin came back from a 13-11 deficit to the tie the score with less than a second remaining, but couldn’t come up with the decisive touch in overtime and fell, 14-13.
In the women’s épée event, Hurley went 6-0 in pools to take the No. 1 seed.
After giving up just one point in the table of 32, Hurley defeated Cynthia Roldan (PER), 13-10.
In the quarter-finals, Hurley fenced teammate Kat Holmes (Washington, D.C.) to secure a medal. Close throughout, Hurley led 5-4 at the first break and 12-10 going into the third period, which she maintained to move into the semis, 12-10.
Hurley had to come from behind in the semifinals. Down 5-3 to 2010 Senior World bronze medalist and 2015 Pan Am Champion Nathalie Moellhausen (BRA), Hurley fought back to tie the score at six. At 10 points apiece, Hurley closed the bout on a 5-1 run for a 15-11 victory.
“I fence Nathalie Moellhausen all the time. I fence her in practice and I’ve run into her at two World Cups now, but keep things keep going my way,” Hurley said. “The bout started off a little rocky, but my coach gave me some really good information … Everything really worked out great. I felt really strong.”
In the final, Hurley jumped out to a 6-1 advantage over Maria Martinez (VEN) and never let the Venezuelan back into the bout, clinching her fifth Pan Am championship and 10th career medal at the event, 15-11.
“I’m really happy I got that first touch because that set the tone for the rest of the match. She had to come at me, which was great, because I didn’t have a ton of energy to go the other way, so really the bout worked out perfectly,” Hurley said. “[The gold] feels great, especially the fourth year being the Olympic qualifying year, so I hope it sets the tone for the rest of the season.”
To reach the quarters, Holmes, a five-time Pan Am medalist, edged out Malinka Hoppe Montanaro (CAN), 15-10, and Lizzie Asis (VEN), 15-12.
The reigning Senior World Championships bronze medalist, Courtney Hurley (San Antonio, Texas), entered the competition looking for her fourth Pan Am title.
She controlled her table of 32 bout against Alexanne Verret (CAN), 15-8, but lost to Martinez in the 16, 15-10.
Competing at the Pan American Championships for the first time, Kasia Nixon (Los Angeles, Calif.) earned her first direct elimination victory over Alessandra Valeri Aicardi Gonzalez (PAN), 15-12. However, she drew 2018 Pan Am silver medalist Isabel Di Tella (ARG) in the 16 and fell, 15-7.
Top eight and U.S. results are as follows:
Women’s Épée Pan American Championships
1. Kelley Hurley (San Antonio, Texas)
2. Maria Martinez (VEN)
3. Nathalie Moellhausen (BRA)
3. Maria Luisa Doig (PER)
5. Patrizia Piovesan Silva (VEN)
6. Kat Holmes (Washington, D.C.)
7. Isabel Di Tella (ARG)
8. Montserrat Viveros (PAR)
9. Kasia Nixon (Los Angeles, Calif.)
10. Courtney Hurley (San Antonio, Texas)
Men’s Foil Pan American Championships
1. Race Imboden (Brooklyn, N.Y.)
2. Guilherme Toldo (BRA)
3. Gerek Meinhardt (San Francisco, Calif.)
3. Alex Massialas (San Francisco, Calif.)
5. Nick Itkin (Los Angeles, Calif.)
6. Blake Broszus (CAN)
7. Victor Leon (VEN)
8. Carlos Padua (PUR)
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