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U.S. Men’s Foil Team Wins First-Ever Senior World Title

07/23/2019, 10:00pm CDT
By Nicole Jomantas

(Budapest, Hungary) – Three Senior World silver medals. One Olympic bronze medal. Three Overall World Cup titles. One World Cup season sweep. 12 World Cup titles. 27 World Cup medals.

2019 Senior World Championship Results

The U.S. Men’s Foil Team has set and broken its own record time and time again since Alexander Massialas (San Francisco, Calif.), Race Imboden (Brooklyn, N.Y.), Gerek Meinhardt (San Francisco, Calif.) and Miles Chamley-Watson (New York City, N.Y.) competed on the first of seven Senior World and two Olympic Teams together in 2011.

On Tuesday, the squad made history again as it won Team USA's first Senior World Championship title in men's foil and end the season with a fourth Overall World Cup title.

“I’ve been sharing my journey in fencing my whole life with these boys and we finally did it together,” Imboden said. “We made it one step we’ve broken and made history for Team USA. It’s amazing. These are my brothers.”

Team USA not only won gold after silver medal finishes in 2018, 2017 and 2013, but the Americans did so in dominant fashion – besting opponents by at least 13 touches in each five matches over two days.

“We were determined that there was only one thing that we were all about and that was bringing home a gold medal and that’s what this team is all about,” said Coach Greg Massialas (San Francisco, Calif.)

The Americans qualified for the quarter-finals after wins over Israel and Hungary by 45-24 and 45-27 scores, respectively on Monday.

In the quarters, China kept the early bouts close, holding Team USA to a one-touch lead at 15-14 after the first three bouts. Meinhardt pulled away with a 5-3 win over Mengkai Huang in the fourth, however, and the Americans never looked back, outscoring China, 25-13, to win the match, 45-30. Massialas, Imboden and Meinhardt each posted positive indicators at +7, +5 and +3, respectively, over three bouts each.

Fencing Russia in the semifinals for the third straight year, the match got heated from the start as 2014 Senior World Champion Alexey Cheremisinov brought Russia out with four quick touches in his opener against Imboden. The American rebounded with five of his own to give his teammates a 5-4 lead.

The Americans settled in, however, winning or tying five of the next six bouts. In the eighth, Imboden blew through his bout against 2016 Olympic individual bronze medalist Timur Safin, 7-2, to push Team USA to a 12-touch lead at 40-28. Massialas returned to the strip in the anchor bout where he handed Cheremisinov his third loss of the day, 5-2, to close with a 45-30 victory. Imboden led the team on indicators at +8 with Chamley-Watson finishing +4 and Massialas +3.

In the final, Team USA would fence France – the 2016 Olympic silver medalists. Although the Americans won their last matchup against France, 45-34, to take the Cairo World Cup title in March, the French team included Enzo Lefort who won the individual Senior World title in Budapest. Erwann Le Pechoux would open the match for the French with the veteran looking to add a fifth title to a resume that includes eight Senior World team medals with his first coming in 2005.

Imboden was up to the task of setting the tone for Team USA as he defeated Le Pechoux, 5-1, in the first bout.

“It’s been everything for me to gain trust in these guys and then to lead off World Championships this year and come out and really own the first match against the guy who’s really a legend in team, Erwann Le Pechoux, to hold my guys up like that and give them exactly where we wanted to be in the first match, I couldn’t ask for more,” Imboden said.

France put up a solid fight throughout the match, winning a bout and tying three. Team USA kept grinding, however, as the lead grew bigger with Meinhardt finishing his rounds at +6 and Imboden at +3 going into the final bout between Massialas and Le Pechoux. With a 10-touch lead at 40-30, Massialas outscored Le Pechoux, 5-2, to win the match, 45-32.

“We just knew it was going to be a fight. From the very beginning, they came at us aggressively off the bat, but sometimes you have to fight fire with fire and every time they hit back, we hit back even harder,” Massialas said. “I’m just so proud of these guys standing next to me because every time it seemed like they wanted to go on a run and they’d get a couple touches, we’d fought right back and went on a run of our own and closed out the bout.”

Meinhardt said that it’s the team’s longevity as a unit that allows them to work well together and pull through when the pressure is on.

“We’ve grown up together. We’ve been on teams for so many years in a row. We’ve been through a lot of losses together, a lot of wins together, which is why we trust each other so much and we’re willing to go out there and put everything on the line, whether it turns out well or not,” Meinhardt said. “Today, thankfully, we put it all together, fought hard and we came out with the gold.”

With 366 days remaining until the Tokyo Olympic Games, the next historic achievement for the U.S. Men’s Foil Team could be winning the first team title for the United States in fencing at the Games.

“I think today is the true definition of a real team. We all look forward to Tokyo, but right now we want to enjoy this and celebrate,” said Chamley-Watson who now holds two Senior World titles after winning individual in Budapest in 2013 as the first U.S. man to win an individual gold at the Senior Worlds.

Massialas noted that the journey to the top step of the podium has been grueling, but he is looking forward to the opportunity to compete at a third Olympic Games with his teammates where the Americans will aim to build on their success over the last several seasons.

“We went through hell together and now we’re standing on top of the world, but one thing is for sure –the only thing on my mind right now is celebrating and going for one more gold next year,” Massialas said.

The U.S. Women’s Saber Team also competed on Tuesday, placing seventh.

Mariel Zagunis (Beaverton, Ore.), Eliza Stone (Chicago, Ill.), Aleksandra Shelton (Tigard, Ore.) and Kamali Thompson (Teaneck, N.J.) entered the quarter-finals after wins over Uzbekistan, 45-39, and Canada, 45-32, on Monday.

In the quarters against Korea, Zagunis led the team in scoring with a +3 indicator, but the squad led by 2012 Olympic Champion Jiyeon Kim closed strongly to end the match at 45-39.

Fencing in the 5th – 8th place table, Zagunis, Thompson and Stone each earned bout wins with Thompson besting three-time individual Senior World Champion Olga Kharlan, 7-2, but Alina Komashchuk would make the greatest impact for the Ukrainians, going +12 on the match with Kharlan anchoring the 45-37 victory.

The Americans ended with a victory, however, winning seven of nine bouts against China for a 45-32 win.

Top eight results are as follows:

Men’s Team Foil Senior World Championships
1. USA

2. France
3. Italy
4. Russia
5. Hong kong
6. Korea
7. Hungary
8. USA

Women’s Team Saber World Championships
1. Russia
2. France
3. Korea
4. Italy
5. Hungary
6. Ukraine
7. USA
8. China

 

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