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Zagunis and Shelton Advance Through Women’s Saber Prelim Rounds at Senior Worlds

07/18/2019, 2:15pm CDT
By Nicole Jomantas

Aleksandra Shelton will fence in the 64 on Saturday alongside teamamtes Eliza Stone and Mariel Zagunis. Photo Credit: #BizziTeam

(Budapest, Hungary) – Mariel Zagunis (Beaverton, Ore.) and Aleksandra Shelton (Tigard, Ore.) each qualified for the women’s saber table of 64 on Saturday with wins in the preliminary rounds on Wednesday.

2019 Senior World Championships Live Results

Zagunis and Shelton will fence in the 64 with teammate Eliza Stone (Chicago, Ill.) who was exempt from the early rounds due to her No. 5 world ranking.

The men’s foil event also was held on Friday, but all four U.S. fencers were exempt due to top-16 world rankings with Race Imboden (Brooklyn, N.Y.), Gerek Meinhardt (San Francisco, Calif.), Alexander Massialas (San Francisco, Calif.) and Nick Itkin (Los Angeles, Calif.) each advancing directly to the table of 64.

In all, Team USA has 22 fencers competing in the 64 across the six disciplines. Men’s and women’s foil and men’s epee and men’s saber each qualified the maximum of four athletes over the last three days with women’s saber and women’s epee qualifying three.

Zagunis, a two-time Olympic Champion and five-time Senior World Champion, went 5-1 in the pool rounds to take the No. 22 seed in the table of 64.

“I’m pleased with the way I fenced today. I’m normally not used to pools, but having a full season of pools, I think I came into this tournament mentally prepared for those five-touch bouts,” Zagunis said. “I think my pool performance put me in a good position, but you have to beat everybody to win, so I’m just excited to continue to fence and come out strong and hopefully come out with a good result.”

Zagunis will fence Iryna Shchukla (TUR) in the 64 with a potential matchup against Liza Pusztai (HUN) – the 18 year old who won two medals on the senior circuit this year after winning both Junior and Cadet World medalists in 2017 and 2018.

Shelton has fenced at every Senior Worlds since 2000 except 2017 when she had her son Henry. A bronze medalist at the 2003 Senior Worlds. Those Worlds appearances, however, came while representing her native Poland. In January, Shelton formally changed her representation to the United States and she is aiming for a fifth Olympic Team in Tokyo.

In pools, however, she struggled, dropping three bouts which meant she would need two direct elimination wins to make it to the second day.

Shelton led her preliminary table of 128 bout against Linda Ibeth Gonzalez Castellanos (COL), 5-4, in the first and scored three straight to end the period with an 8-4 lead. In the second, Shelton closed at 15-10.

She came out strong against Nisanur Erbil (TUR) to take an 8-3 lead at the break and finish with a 15-9 victory.

“It was a little bit like what we can call nightmare,” Shelton laughed. “But I made it through, I succeeded and I’m fencing in the main tournament. It definitely was a hard day for me, but I was keeping fighting and keeping working on my strength and … I made it and that’s what matters at the end of the day.”

Senior Worlds is Shelton’s second tournament as a member of the National Team after helping Team USA win gold at the Pan American Championships in Toronto two weeks ago.

“This is my first World Championships under the U.S. flag and it’s an incredible feeling … [there is] an amazing support team [and] I’m so happy to be here,” Shelton said.

In the 64, Shelton will fence Stone for the first time in a 15-touch international bout since Shelton defeated her now-teammate at the 2014 Senior Worlds before going on to finish seventh overall.

With 2018 Senior World Team Champion Charlotte Lembach (FRA) waiting as a potential table of 32 matchup, the winner could take on Zagunis in the 16.

Chloe Fox-Gitomer (Portland, Ore.) also fenced on Wednesday, but was eliminated when she followed a 4-1 pool finish with a 15-12 loss to Chika Aoki (JPN).

In the men’s foil draws, all four U.S. men are ranked among the top 11 in the world with Imboden at No. 2, Meinhardt at No. 6 and Massialas and Itkin sitting at No. 9 and 11, respectively.

Imboden won three medals on the World Cup circuit this year and was the Overall World Cup Champion in 2014-15 – the first man to achieve the feat in any weapon. Imboden will get the day started with a table of 64 bout against Kevin Jerrold Chan (SGP) with 2018 Senior World bronze medalist Carlos Llavador (ESP) lying as a potential table of 16 opponent and a bout with 2012 Olympic Team Champion Giorgio Avola (ITA) as an option for the eight.

All three of Imboden’s teammates sit in the top half of the bracket with Meinhardt and Itkin potentially meeting in the table of 16 as Team USA’s earliest potential clash of the day. Massialas sits in the top bracket and wouldn’t fence any of his teammates before the semifinals.

Fencing at his first Senior World Championships, 2018 Junior World Team member Nick Itkin (Los Angeles, Calif.) will fence Andras Nemeth (HUN) in the 64 with the winner meeting either Takahiro Shikine (JPN) or Guilherme Toldo (BRA) who defeated Itkin at the Pan Ams last month.

Meinhardt will fence two-time Grand Prix medalist Kwanghyun Lee (KOR) in the 64 with 2019 Absolute Fencing Gear® FIE Grand Prix Anaheim Champion Julien Mertine (FRA) waiting for a possible 32 matchup. The bottom of Ikin and Meinhardt’s quadrants includes Richard Kruse (GBR), a top-four finisher in Rio as well as 2008 Olympic Champion Ben Kleibrink (GER) and five-time Senior World Champion Peter Joppich (GER) with the German teammates fencing each other in the 64.

In his round of 64, Massialas will fence Kyosuke Matsuyama (JPN) and could draw 2012 Olympic silver medalist Alaaeldin Aboelkassem (EGY) in the 32. Massialas also could fence Erwann Le Pechoux (FRA) in the 16 the 2016 Olympic team silver medalist who defeated Massialas, Meinhardt and Imboden each during his run to a silver medal at the Cairo World Cup in March. Reigning Senior World Champion Alessio Foconi (ITA), 2014 Senior World Champion Alexey Cheremisinov (RUS) and 2018 European medalist Alexander Choupenitch (CZE) could meet in or before the 16 with any of the three potentially fencing Massialas in the eight.

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