Eli Dershwitz won silver at the 2018 Senior Worlds and remains No. 1 in the world. Photo Credit: Augusto Bizzi.
(Colorado Springs, Colo.) – Olympic qualification season will continue in earnest next week when the Senior World Championships begin on Monday in Budapest, Hungary.
The Senior Worlds serve as the most significant point qualifier for nations seeking to qualify teams to the 2020 Olympic Games as well as a key qualifier for individual athletes looking to represent Team USA in Tokyo.
More than 1,000 athletes from 100+ nations are expected to compete over 10 days in Budapest.
At the 2018 Senior Worlds, Team USA won a record six medals, including first-ever Senior World Championship titles from the women’s épée and foil squads as well as silver from the men’s foil team.
All three individual medalists from the 2018 Senior Worlds will return this year, including Eli Dershwitz (Sherborn, Mass.) who won silver in men’s saber, as well as Courtney Hurley (San Antonio, Texas) and Eliza Stone (Chicago, Ill.) who won bronzes in women’s épée and saber, respectively.
Featuring 26 total athletes, the team includes six Olympic medalists:
Individual preliminary competition will be held from July 15-17 followed by the table of 64 and medal rounds from July 18-20 and the team events from July 20-23. Note: Those seeded in the top 16 advance directly to the table of 64.
View the complete preview of each weapon (individual and team) below.
Individual: July 15, 18
Team: July 20-21
Eli Dershwitz (Sherborn, Mass.) enters the Senior Worlds with all eyes on him as the World No. 1 and reigning Senior World silver medalist. Teammate Daryl Homer (Bronx, N.Y.) comes in as No. 15 in the world. An expected 14th seed means that Homer and Dershwitz should avoid a collision in the 16. Dershwitz won gold at the Warsaw World Cup in February and ended the season with silver at the Moscow Grand Prix after a string of five fifth place finishes. Last week, Dershwitz confirmed his World No. 1 with his fourth career gold medal at the Pan American Championships in Toronto. Homer, who won bronze at the Pan Ams, is seeking to return to the podium after silver medals in Rio and at the 2015 Senior Worlds. London Olympian Jeff Spear (Wynantskill, N.Y.) was only able to compete in five of the season’s eight tournaments on the World Cup circuit due to conflicts with his doctoral program at NYU, but produced a top-32 and two 64s to qualify for his fifth Senior World Team. First-time Team member Khalil Thompson (Teaneck, N.J.) finished in the 64 at four of the first six tournaments of the season and earned his first top-32 in Madrid.
With 2018 Senior World Champion Junghwan Kim (KOR) not slated to compete in Budapest, the field could be open for a first-time Champion. Korea will remain a dominant force, howver, with Sanguk Oh and Hansol Ha combining for three of the season’s eight gold medals and Oh medaling at six of the World Cup circuit’s eight events this season as well as adding two more golds in the past few weeks at the Asian Championships and World University Games. Despite their No. 1 and 2 world rankings, Dershwitz and Oh have only fenced individually twice, splitting the bouts with Dershwitz winning their last, 15-14, in Warsaw. A bronze medalist at the 2015 Senior Worlds, Max Hartung (GER) had his best season on the circuit this year, winning six World Cup or Grand Prix medals, including two golds. Now ranked fourth in the world, watch for big moments from Aron Szilagyi (HUN), the two-time reigning Olympic Champion who will be competing in front of a home crowd after a trio of silvers on the circuit.
After reaching World No. 1 in 2016 and a fourth place finish at the 2017 Senior Worlds, the Americans are looking to make a statement going into the Tokyo Games where the team event will be contested in Men’s Saber for the first time since 2012. The U.S. men finished in the top eight three times this season and are seeking to improve on a top-16 result at the 2018 Senior Worlds.
Much like the individual event, Korea is the team to watch as the World No. 1 with three gold medals on the circuit. The remaining two golds, however, came from Italy – the silver medalists behind Korea at the 2018 Senior Worlds.
Individual: July 15, 18
Team: July 20-21
Courtney Hurley (San Antonio, Texas) made history at the 2018 Senior Worlds where she became the first U.S. épée fencer, male or female, ever to win an individual medal at the event, taking bronze. Hurley medaled twice on the circuit this season with silver in Dubai and bronze in Chengdu, China to hold onto a No. 7 world ranking. Older sister Kelley Hurley (San Antonio, Texas) earned a pair of top eights on the circuit this season and is ranked No. 11 in the world after winning her fifth career Pan Am title. Rio Olympian Kat Holmes (Washington, D.C.) earned a top-16 and a pair of 32s this season after reaching the 16 at the 2018 Senior Worlds. A 2017 Junior World silver medalist, Kasia Nixon (Los Angeles, Calif.) reached the 32 twice this season.
Mara Navarria (ITA) comes in as the World No. 1 and reigning Senior World Champion, but the Italian has struggled this season, only reaching the podium once with a silver at the Cali Grand Prix. After taking silver at the 2018 Senior Worlds, 2008 Olympic medalist Ana Maria Popescu (ROU) skipped three events this season, but won gold at the Budapest Grand Prix and bronze in Cali to hold on to the No. 2 world ranking. This season’s breakout star, however, has been former Stanford All-American Vivian Kong (HKG) who won four medals in eight events, including a pair of golds.
The American women not only won their first medal at the Senior Worlds in 2018, but made it a gold with Holmes anchoring three straight overtime wins in thrilling fashion. This time, the U.S. team comes into unfamiliar territory — as No. 1 and the reigning World Champions. With a title to defend, there are a number of contenders for the top spot on the podium, including Poland who won two gold medals on the circuit this year and defeated Russia to win Europeans last month.
Individual: July 16, 19
Team: July 21-22
Lee Kiefer (Lexington, Ky.) produced another season of podium finishes on the World Cup circuit, winning a trio of bronzes to hold onto a No. 6 world ranking and a total of 17 career individual medals on the circuit. After narrowly missing the podium at the 2018 Senior Worlds with a top-eight finish, the 2011 Senior World bronze medalist recently completed her second year of medical school and is ready to begin a year of training full time during the leadup to Tokyo. A three-time individual medalist on the World Cup circuit, 2012 Olympian Nicole Ross (New York City, N.Y.) won her first individual Pan American title two weeks ago and is ranked No. 14 in the world going into her ninth Senior World Championships. Two-time Olympian Nzingha Prescod (Brooklyn, N.Y.) placed eighth in 2018 during her bid for a second individual Senior World medal. This season, the World No. 16 has battled injuries, but did produce a top-16 finish at the Torino Grand Prix. Four-time Junior World team medalist Jackie Dubrovich (Riverdale, N.J.) will be making her Senior World debut after a season that included a top-eight finish in Tauberbischofsheim in May where her only loss came to 2016 Olympic Champion Inna Deriglazova (RUS).
The core of a team that has been together since 2010, Kiefer, Ross and Prescod stood on top of the podium together at the 2018 Senior World Championships for the first time in the program’s history as the first U.S. foil team – male of female to win a Senior World title. Now ranked No. 2 in the world behind France, Team USA won silver in Katowice and ended the circuit with three straight fourth place finishes. The Americans took the Pan Am title just over a week ago and are eyeing a return to the podium in Budapest. While the Italians have traditionally been the powerhouse in both men’s and women’s foil winning seven of the last 10 Senior World titles, France has medaled at every World Cup this season, including three straight golds. Third-ranked Russia bested France at the Europeans last month, however, showing that the top four teams in the world could each win gold in Budapest.
Individual: July 16, 19
Team: July 21-22
For the first time in many years, Team USA has two fencers ranked among the top 16 in the world with Jake Hoyle (New York City, N.Y.) and Curtis McDowald (Jamaica, N.Y.) holding the No. 11 and 12 seeds in the tournament. Just a year ago, both Hoyle and McDowald were Senior World Team rookies and now each will have the advantage of a bye into the table of 64. In January, Hoyle made history as the first U.S. fencer to win a Grand Prix medal since 2011 – a feat he followed with another bronze at the next World Cup in Vancouver. McDowald, who earned a top eight at the 2018 Senior Worlds, followed Hoyle’s success with a podium of his own, winning bronze at the Budapest Grand Prix. Former Junior World Team member James Kaull (New York City, N.Y.) qualified for his first senior squad after a top-16 result at the 2018 Cali Grand Prix while 2017 Senior World Team member Adam Rodney (New Orleans, La.) posted two top-64s on the circuit this season.
Reigning World Champion Yannick Borel (FRA) was dominant at the end of the last season, winning the Cali Grand Prix, European Championships and Worlds back-to-back, and returned this season with a gold medal at the Qatar Grand Prix in his first appearance on the circuit. Since January, however, Borel has yet to make it out of the 16 and gave up his World No. 1 on a tiebreak to Kazuyasu Minobe (JPN) who won three golds this season, including two Grand Prix titles as he prepares for the Olympic Games to return to his nation next year. Being épée, however, nothing is guaranteed and Minobe struggled at the Asian Championships, dropping a 15-9 bout to end with a loss in the 32
The U.S. men placed eighth at the 2018 Senior Worlds and have reached the top eight on the World Cup circuit at four of five tournaments this year. After missing qualification as a squad for the 2016 Olympic Games, World No. 8 Team USA is well ahead of Zone rival Cuba who sits 25th in the world, but the squad has goals of reaching the medal rounds for the first time since Team USA won gold at the 2012 Senior Worlds. World No. 1 Russia has won three World Cup titles this season with 2018 Senior World Champion Switzerland and Japan each posting gold medal wins as well. At the Europeans last month, Russia took gold with Denmark taking a surprise silver.
Individual: July 17, 20
Team: July 22-23
All four individual members of Team USA are exempt from pools and will earn byes into the 64 with Race Imboden (Brooklyn, N.Y.), Gerek Meinhardt (San Francisco, Calif.), Alexander Massialas (San Francisco, Calif.) and Nick Itkin (Los Angeles, Calif.) coming in at No. 2, 6, 9 and 11, respectively. Each of these athletes have medaled on the circuit this season and are candidates for an individual podium finish in Budapest. Meinhardt and Massialas have each earned individual Senior World medals with Meinhardt taking bronze in 2010 and 2015 and Massialas earning silver in 2015 prior to his 2016 Olympic silver. Former World No. 1 Imboden has bested every top fencer in the world and is determined to reach the Senior World podium for the first time as an individual after three team silvers while 2018 Junior World Champion Nick Itkin (Los Angeles, Calif.) is hoping to build on a season that began and ended with his first two senior individual medals on the circuit.
Italian Alessio Foconi won the 2018 Senior World title and kept up the momentum this season, winning medals at six of eight events on the circuit, including two golds. Foconi has battled with the Americans throughout the season, taking wins and losses both to Imboden and Itkin. At Europeans, Foconi bested 2016 Olympic Champion Daniele Garozzo (ITA) in the final. Ranked No. 3 in the world, Garozzo medaled twice this season, but has not faced a U.S. World team member since his 15-9 loss to Itkin in Bonn last fall.
After silver medal finishes behind Italy in 2013, 2017 and 2018, Team USA has nothing but gold as the goal when Imboden, Massialas and Meinhardt fence with 2013 Senior World Champion Miles Chamley-Watson (New York City, N.Y.) The Americans enter the event ranked No. 1 in the world again with five podium finishes on the circuit, including three gold medals. While the USA-Italy matchup is one many are watching for, Russia could be a contender for the final as well after defeating Italy to win gold in Paris in January.
Individual: July 17, 20
Team: July 22-23
Eliza Stone (Chicago, Ill.) won her first individual Senior World medal after three team podiums in 2018, taking bronze as she began her ascent to World No. 5. Stone enters the tournament off her first career individual Pan American title where she won gold with a comeback victory over two-time Olympic Champion Mariel Zagunis (Beaverton, Ore.) in the final. Zagunis, who won Olympic bronze with Team USA in 2016, placed fifth in the team event at the 2018 Senior Worlds, but this will mark her first return to the event as an individual since 2015 after giving birth to her daughter, Sunday, in 2017. Aleksandra Shelton (Tigard, Ore.) may be a new face to the U.S. roster, but the 37 year old has competed at four Olympic Games for Poland and nearly every Senior Worlds since 2000, winning bronze in 2003 and taking top eights in 2013, 2014 and 2015 before having her son, Henry, in 2017. A 2018 Junior World team silver medalist, Chloe Fox-Gitomer (Portland, Ore.) received the call-up to her second Senior World Team after injuries forced 2016 Olympic team bronze medalist Dagmara Wozniak (Avenel, N.J.) to withdraw from the event.
The top three fencers in the world have combined to win every individual Senior World title since 2015. World No. 1 Sofya Velikaya (RUS) has taken portions of two seasons off to have her two children, but the 34 year old remains a frontrunner for gold after winning three titles on the circuit this season. The 2011 and 2015 Senior World Champion lost to her teammate, Sofia Pozdniakova (RUS), in the finals of the 2018 Senior Worlds. Velikaya avenged the loss in May, however, defeating No. 3 Pozdniakova in front of a home crowd at the Moscow Grand Prix. Two-time Olympic individual medalist Olga Kharlan (UKR) won titles at the 2013, 2014 and 2017 Senior Worlds, but was upset in the 64 last year. Despite their long rivalry and top world rankings, Kharlan and Velikaya haven’t fenced each other in an individual event since 2016 and fencing fans will be watching to see who has the potential to upset the No. 1 and 2 clash this year.
The Americans are seeking a return to the podium on the largest world stage for the first time since the bronze medal win at the 2016 Olympic Games. Zagunis, Stone and Shelton will be joined in the team competition by first-time team member Kamali Thompson (Teaneck, N.J.) Team USA fenced for bronze twice this season and enter the Senior Worlds as No. 4 in the world. France, the World No. 1 and 2018 Senior World Champion, has been the team to beat this year, winning four of five World Cups only World No. 3 Italy taking a single gold this season. Three of those wins came over Russia, however – a team that won gold at Europeans after France fell to Hungary in the semis.
The complete delegation roster is as follows:
Chief of Mission
Sam Cheris (Aurora, Colo.)
Daria Schneider (Ithaca, N.Y.)
Kate Reisinger (Colorado Springs, Colo.)
Ron Herman (Iowa City, Iowa)
Matthew Porter (Lower Lake, Calif.)
Ashley Bruley (Long Beach, Calif.)
Jeremy Summers (Mount Sinai, N.Y.)
Adam Thompson (Marion, Ind.)
Men’s Épée Coach
Kornel Udvarhelyhi (Glendale, N.Y.)
Women’s Épée Coach
Andrey Geva (Houston, Texas)
Director of Épée
Sebastien Dos Santos (Golden, Colo.)
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
Yury Gelman (Rockaway, N.J.)
Team roster denotes world ranking.
11. Jake Hoyle (New York City, N.Y.)
12. Curtis McDowald (Jamaica, N.Y.)
60. James Kaull (New York City, N.Y.)
98. Adam Rodney (New Orleans, La.)
7. Courtney Hurley (San Antonio, Texas)
11. Kelley Hurley (San Antonio, Texas)
24. Kat Holmes (Washington, D.C.)
61. Kasia Nixon (Los Angeles, Calif.0
2. Race Imboden (Brooklyn, N.Y.)
6. Gerek Meinhardt (San Francisco, Calif.)
9. Alexander Massialas (San Francisco, Calif.)
Individual Only: 11. Nick Itkin (Los Angeles, Calif.)
Team Only: 25. Miles Chamley-Watson (New York City, N.Y.)
6. Lee Kiefer (Lexington, Ky.)
14. Nicole Ross (New York City, N.Y.)
16. Nzingha Prescod (New York City, N.Y.)
26. Jackie Dubrovich (Riverdale, N.J.)
1. Eli Dershwitz (Sherborn, Mass.)
15. Daryl Homer (Bronx, N.Y.)
39. Khalil Thompson (Teaneck, N.J.)
67. Jeff Spear (Wynantskill, N.Y.0
5. Eliza Stone (Chicago, Ill.)
25. Mariel Zagunis (Beaverton, Ore.)
30. Aleksandra Shelton (Tigard, Ore.)
Individual Only: 55. Chloe Fox-Gitomer (Portland, Ore.)
Team Only: 101. Kamali Thompson (Teaneck, N.J.)
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