(Toronto, Canada) – 2018 World Championship bronze medalist Eliza Stone (Princeton, N.J.) won her first individual Pan American Championship gold medal Saturday in Toronto.
In a thrilling All-American final that went down to the last touch, Stone earned her fourth individual Pan Am medal while two-time Olympic Champion Mariel Zagunis (Beaverton, Ore.) secured her 11th individual podium finish at the Zonal Championships.
Team USA finished the individual events with five of the six golds for the second straight year.
“It feels spectacular,” Stone said. “I cannot exactly explain it and it has not sunk in. I’m just very happy right now.”
Zagunis and Stone claimed the third and fourth seeds out of pools, respectively.
After cruising past Abigail Valdez Andrade (MEX), 15-4, and Patricia Contreras (VEN), 15-3, Stone faced 2009 Pan Am bronze medalist Eileen Grench (PAN). With Stone down 8-7 at the break, Grench took the first point of the second period, but Stone went for six straight touches to take a 13-9 lead and held on for a 15-11 victory.
Stone jumped out to an 8-4 lead over six-time Pan Am medalist and 2014 champion Maria Belen Perez Maurice (ARG) before using a 3-0 to go up 11-5. She went on to win, 15-11, setting up a fight for gold against Zagunis.
“My timing was right and I had no doubt. I was just extra, extra focused,” Stone said. “
Zagunis, who was competing at the event for the first time since 2016 after giving birth to her daughter Sunday in 2017, dominated her table of 32 bout against Laura Lopez Guarin (COL), 15-4.
In the table of 16, Zagunis fenced teammate Aleksandra Shelton (Tigard, Ore.), who advanced with a 15-7 victory over Esther Bentolila (PAN). Up 12-10, Zagunis finished the bout with three straight touches to come within one victory of a medal, 15-10.
“In such a small competition, that’s one of the risks you run is meeting other USA people early and unfortunately we met pretty early on, but I’m here to win and it doesn’t matter who’s going to stand in my way,” Zagunis said. “So unfortunately we did meet early, but I just buckled down and treated it like any other bout.”
That set another battle between two U.S. fencers as Zagunis drew her 2016 Olympic teammate and the reigning Pan Am Champion Dagmara Wozniak (Avenel, N.J.) Wozniak had performed well on the day with two 12-8 victories, but withdrew due to injury, guaranteeing Zagunis a medal.
Although Zagunis built an 8-5 lead over Gabriella Page (CAN) in the semis, Page scored the first four points of the second period to take a 9-8 advantage. Tied at 13, Zagunis came through with the final two points to secure the opportunity to compete for her seventh Pan Am championship.
“It’s always hard fencing against the hometown crowd with all the noise and the cheering and everything, but I think our USA contingent held it down,” Zagunis said. “I heard a lot of people cheering pretty loud trying to compete with the Canadians, so that kept me motivated and focused and I’m glad I was able to pull out a win.”
The second straight year of an All-American final with Stone earning silver in 2018, this year Stone would not be denied the gold.
Zagunis came out of the gates strong, taking a 10-3 lead, but Stone responded with six consecutive touches to cut the gap to one. Tied at 11, Zagunis called for a video review, which went in favor of Stone, giving her her first lead of the bout. Stone then scored another touch to lead, 13-11, but three straight points for Zagunis put her on the brink of victory.
Nevertheless, Stone held the four-time Olympic medalist and took the final two points for the top step of the podium.
“I started off with the wrong strategy, but I knew to simply enjoy every single action, every single touch, not let anything get to me, just go out and do everything I possibly could and love every second of it and it happened to work out and I’m happy,” Stone said.
In the men’s epee competition, James Kaull (New York, N.Y.) and Curtis McDowald (Jamaica, N.Y.) finished seventh and eighth, respectively.
Kaull’s first Pan American Championships, he controlled his first two bouts against Marc-Antoine Blais-Belanger (CAN), 15-7, and Andres Filipe Campos Zarate (COL), 13-7.
Kaull came up just short of a medal, falling to Jose Felix Dominguez (ARG), 8-7, in overtime.
McDowald, who earned bronze at last year’s Zonal Championships, came back from a 14-11 deficit in the table of 32 to overcome Grabiel Lugo (VEN), 15-14.
After edging out Alexandre Camargo (BRA), 15-13, McDowald lost to 2012 Olympic Champion and current World No. 4 Ruben Limardo Gascon (VEN), 15-10.
Last year, Jake Hoyle (New York N.Y.) earned bronze at his first Pan Ams. Going 6-0 in pools, Hoyle took the No. 3 seed and posted a 15-9 victory over Arturo Isaac Dorati Ameglio (PAN).
However, the following round, Hoyle fell by the same score to Jesus Limardo (VEN), 15-9. Limardo went on to win silver.
After outtouching Rodrigo Gonzalez (CHI), 14-13, Adam Rodney (New Orleans, La.) came up short to Francisco Limardo (VEN), 10-9.
Top eight and U.S. results are as follows:
Women’s Saber Pan American Championships
1. Eliza Stone (Princeton, N.J.)
2. Mariel Zagunis (Beaverton, Ore.)
3. Gabriella Page (CAN)
3. Maria Belen Perez Maurice (ARG)
5. Heyddys Valentin (DOM)
6. Dagmara Wozniak (Avenel, N.J.)
7. Eileen Grench (PAN)
8. Alejandra Jhonay Benitez Romero (VEN)
12. Aleksandra Shelton (Tigard, Ore.)
Men’s Épée Pan American Championships
1. Ruben Limardo Gascon (VEN)
2. Jesus Limardo (VEN)
3. Jose Felix Dominguez (ARG)
3. Yunior Reytor Venet (CUB)
5. Francisco Limardo (VEN)
6. Pablo Nunez (VEN)
7. James Kaull (New York, N.Y.)
8. Curtis McDowald (Jamaica, N.Y.)
9. Jake Hoyle (New York N.Y.)
13. Adam Rodney (New Orleans, La.)
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