(Toronto, Canada) – In recent years, winning gold at the Pan American Championships has become nearly automatic for the U.S. women’s foil and men’s saber teams.
Adding two more golds to Team USA’s collection on the first day of team events, giving the United States seven of the eight titles at the event, the men’s saber team has never lost at the Pan American Championships while the women’s foil squad earned its 13th straight title.
“It feels really good to have this win as a team,” two-time Olympian and anchor Lee Kiefer (Lexington, Ky.) said. “It’s always the whole team functioning together to win and we really want to start this Olympic qualification with a bang, so we’re really happy.”
Team USA didn’t drop a bout in its first two matches.
In its opening bout against Peru, the United States earned three shutouts and gave up just two points in the final four bouts to win, 45-11. Kiefer tallied a +15 indicator for Team USA.
Led by Nzingha Prescod (Brooklyn, N.Y.) with a +11 indicator in the semifinals, the Unites States cruised past Chile, 45-19, setting up a gold medal final with Canada for the 12th consecutive year.
Three days earlier in the individual event, Team USA and Canada met five times with Eleanor Harvey upsetting Kiefer to end her streak of nine straight Pan Am golds. Kelleigh Ryan also ended the day of Prescod while Nicole Ross (New York, N.Y.) outtouched Harvey and Jessica Guo in overtime for gold. Jackie Dubrovich (Hoboken, N.J.) also overcame Alanna Goldie (CAN) in the table of 16.
“I love Eleanor. I like all the Canadians. I fenced the college circuit with them and the NACs and they’re super nice and great competitors, so I don’t feel any animosity toward them … but it is tough. We have to come out on top. We have to beat the Canadians. Every time,” Kiefer said with a laugh when asked whether the direct elimination losses played a role in the team final.
While Team USA dominated its earlier matches, the final was a close match that went down the final bout.
Up 6-5, Kiefer scored final three points of the second bout to take 9-5 lead. Canada tied the score at 12 in the third, but Dubrovich won final three points to go up three. Ross then extended the lead to five in the fourth with a 4-2 win over Guo, but Goldie cut the lead down to one in the sixth round, 26-25.
Dubrovich responded in the seventh, winning her bout, 9-5, but Goldie kept her team alive again in the eighth bout as she gave Canada a one-point lead going into the anchor leg, 40-39.
That set the stage for a re-match between Kiefer and Harvey. Kiefer started strong, scoring three straight points, but Harvey responded to tie it up at 42. Kiefer’s turn for a run, she went 3-0 to give USA the gold and avenge her individual loss with a 6-2 win.
“Nicole had a really strong first bout with Eleanor and I lost to Jessica earlier this season, so my goal was to try to be more calm and moving. I was pretty successful and then for the rest of the match we kind of bounced back and forth,” Kiefer said. “We’d get a little bit of a lead and we’d lose the lead. Alanna was fencing really well … but for me at the end I think it was a very big moment to practice that discipline and be able to use my skills versus that frantic kind of fencing, which has happened a lot [recently], so I feel very happy to have been my best self in that moment.”
The title marks a strong start to Olympic qualification for Team USA, but right now the squad is focused on the World Championships, where the Unites States enters at the reigning World Champions. The team heads to Columbus after this tournament for a training camp to prepare before heading to Budapest in a few weeks.
“A lot of it is team bonding, getting in those strong bouts,” Kiefer said. “We don’t always train with each other, so it is more special than most teams.”
In the men’s saber event, Eli Dershwitz (Sherborn, Mass.), Daryl Homer (Bronx, N.Y.), Jeff Spear (Wynantskill, N.Y.) and Khalil Thompson (Teaneck, N.J.) earned a bye to the quarter-finals as the No. 1 seed.
Behind Dershwitz, who went +10, Team USA won or tied all nine bouts to beat Brazil, 45-20.
In the semifinals against Argentina, the Unites States started the match with two 5-1 wins and a 5-0 shutout to build a 12-2 lead. The squad went on to win, 45-21 with Homer and Thompson both tallying a +8 indicator.
Fencing Canada for gold for the third straight year, Team USA went down 5-1 to start, but Dershwitz gave the United States a 10-8 lead with a 9-3 win in the second over 2012 Pan Am Champion Joseph Polossifakis.
Although Canada tied the score at 10 in the third, Thompson finished the bout strong for a 15-11 advantage. With the lead down to two entering the fifth, Thompson secured the momentum for Team USA, scoring the first three touches on last year’s Pan Am silver medalist, Shaul Gordon, and widening the U.S.’ lead to six at 25-19.
“Take it one touch a time,” said Thompson of his approach going into the bout. “We’ve had many team events together for the last few months, so it just seemed like another day with the guys. We were winning. I just had to expand the lead.”
Team USA then won the next two bout to go up double digits, 35-25, and held on for the 45-37 victory. On the match, Thompson, who was competing at his first Pan Ams and won his first international team medal, led Team USA with a +9 indicator.
“First of all, it’s great to have new energy. Khalil came in and really stepped up in the gold medal bout, which is very, very hard to do, so I’m really proud of him for that,” Homer said. “We were a really cohesive unit. We worked really hard together. We communicate endlessly, so I’m just really happy to see it come together for us.”
Top eight and U.S. results are as follows:
Women’s Team Foil Pan American Championships
Men’s Team Saber Pan American Championships
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