(Colorado Springs, Colo.) – With 100 days to go before Opening Ceremony of the Tokyo Olympic Games, 19 fencers have qualified for positions on the 2020 U.S. Olympic Fencing Team.
Qualification for Team USA is based on an athlete’s position on the USA Fencing National Team Point Standings with the top three athletes in the standings at the end of the selection period earning positions on Team USA in the individual and team events and the fourth athlete qualifying as a replacement athlete for the team event only.
The selection period, which ends on July 1, includes both international and domestic competitions with the final national qualifying tournament being held at the May North American Cup in Richmond, Va. from May 6-9.
The following is a look at the qualifiers for Team USA as well as a preview of which positions are still being contested.
Gerek Meinhardt (San Francisco, Calif. / Massialas Foundation / Notre Dame) was one of five athletes who earned his qualification spot for Tokyo prior to the yearlong shutdown of competition due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The youngest male fencer to represent Team USA in history, Meinhardt was just 18 years old when he competed at the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008. He went on to compete at both the 2012 and 2016 Olympic Games, earning bronze in the team event in Rio. The only U.S. man to win two individual medals at the Senior World Championships (bronze in 2010 and 2015), Meinhardt also was a member of the team that won its first-ever Senior World Championship gold in 2019 as well as the squads that earned three silvers in 2013, 2017 and 2018. Meinhardt qualified for his fourth Olympic Team in 2020 after winning his second international medal of the season with gold at the Torino Grand Prix. In the first tournament after the COVID-19 shutdown, Meinhardt won gold at the Doha Grand Prix in March and is now ranked No. 2 in the world. Meinhardt will fence in Tokyo with his wife, foil fencer Lee Kiefer (Lexington, Ky. / Bluegrass Fencers’ Club / Notre Dame) – a four-time Senior World medalist who became the first U.S. fencer to qualify individually for Team USA last year. Both Meinhardt and Kiefer also are students at the University of Kentucky Medical School where Kiefer is in her third year and Meinhardt his first.
The reigning individual silver medalist from the 2016 Olympic Games, Alexander Massialas (San Francisco, Calif. / Massialas Foundation / Stanford) secured his position on his third straight Olympic Team with a silver medal finish at the Torino Grand Prix in 2020, followed by a bronze medal win in Cairo. Now ranked No. 5 in the world, Massialas won individual silver at the 2015 Senior World Championships and holds four Senior World medals in the team events, including gold in 2019. Three members of the Massialas family will be represented on Team USA with three-time Olympian Greg Massialas (San Francisco, Calif. / Massialas Foundation) serving as the men’s foil team coach and Alexander’s sister, Sabrina Massialas (San Francisco, Calif. / Massialas Foundation / Notre Dame) who will travel as the replacement athlete for the women’s foil team.
A Junior World Champion just three years ago, Nick Itkin (Los Angeles, Calif. / Los Angeles International Fencing Center / Notre Dame) is currently the youngest qualifier for Team USA at 21 years old. Itkin has quickly risen through the senior ranks and is now ranked No. 9 in the world with three international medals to his credit on the World Cup circuit, including gold at the 2020 Paris World Cup. Itkin, who competed at his first Senior World Championships in 2019, is coached by his father, Michael Itkin (Los Angeles, Calif. / Los Angeles International Fencing Center).
Ranked No. 4 in the world, Race Imboden (Brooklyn, N.Y.) will travel to Tokyo as the replacement athlete for the men’s foil team event. Imboden earned bronze with Team USA in Rio and has fenced on each of the teams that won medals at the Senior World Championships, including the squad that won gold in 2019. The fashion model and activist is one of Team USA’s most decorated fencers on the World Cup circuit, having won 21 Grand Prix and World Cup medals and earning the Overall World Cup titles in 2015.
After winning bronze at the 2011 Senior World Championships as a 17-year-old, Lee Kiefer (Lexington, Ky. / Bluegrass Fencers’ Club / Notre Dame) has gone on to become one of the most successful women’s foil fencers in history, winning 20 individual medals on the World Cup circuit and leading Team USA to three podium finishes at the Senior World Championships, including the squad’s first-ever gold in 2018. Ranked No. 5 in the world, Kiefer is in her third year of medical school at the University of Kentucky and is eyeing the ability to add both “doctor” and “Olympic medalist” to her long resume.
A four-time Junior World team medalist, Jackie Dubrovich (Riverdale, N.J. / Fencers Club / Columbia) won All-American honors four times for Columbia and chose to pursue a berth on the 2020 Olympic Team after graduating in 2016. Dubrovich, who is engaged to her former Junior World teammate, Brian Kaneshige (Maplewood, N.J. / Fencers Club / Harvard), has progressively climbed the rankings over the course of the quad and earned a top-eight finish at the Tauberbischofsheim World Cup in 2019 to open the start of the qualification period. Dubrovich solidified her position on Team USA with a top-32 result at the Doha Grand Prix last month.
Nicole Ross (New York City, N.Y. / New York Athletic Club / Columbia) represented Team USA for the first time at the 2012 Games, but did not qualify for 2016 as the team event was not contested and each nation could only qualify a maximum of two individual fencers. Ross did not give up, however, and continued to pursue the dream of a second Olympic Team, helping Team USA to three Senior World medals, including gold in 2018, during the lead up to the Tokyo Games. Despite suffering a torn ACL in December of 2019, Ross went on to earn qualification points at the next two international qualifying events before undergoing reconstructive surgery during the COVID-19 shutdown. A volunteer assistant coach at Harvard, Ross secured her position on Team USA with a top-64 result in Doha.
The younger sister of Alexander, Sabrina Massialas (San Francisco, Calif. / Massialas Foundation / Notre Dame) followed in her brother’s footsteps with a successful junior career that included individual gold at the 2016 Junior World Championships and winning the 2014 Youth Olympic Games title. A 2017 Senior World Team member, Massialas battled injuries throughout her career, but earned a position as the replacement athlete for the women’s foil team after a top-32 result in Doha.
Ranked No. 2 in the world, Eli Dershwitz (Sherborn, Mass. / Zeta Fencing / Harvard) won silver at the 2018 Senior World Championships and ended the 2017-18 season as the Overall World Cup Champion. Once one of the youngest members of the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team, Dershwitz has come into his own, winning eight medals on the World Cup circuit, including silver at the 2020 Warsaw World Cup that allowed the volunteer coach for Harvard to punch a ticket to his second Olympic Games.
Daryl Homer (Bronx, N.Y. / Peter Westbrook Foundation / St. John’s) will return to his third Olympic Games in Tokyo with the goal of standing on the podium once again after winning silver in 2016. Also a silver medalist at the 2015 Senior World Championships, Homer has followed in the footsteps of his mentor, Peter Westbrook (New York City, N.Y. / Peter Westbrook Foundation), who won individual bronze for Team USA at the 1984 Olympic Games. In Rio, Homer became just the second Black U.S. fencer to reach the individual Olympic podium and is looking to build on his success in Tokyo.
The final two positions on the U.S. Men’s Saber Team remain open with three-time Senior World Team member Andrew Mackiewicz (Westwood, Mass. / Zeta Fencing / Penn State) currently ranked third and 2019 Senior World Team member Khalil Thompson (Teaneck, N.J. / Peter Westbrook Foundation) in fourth. The heat will be on at the May NAC as less than 200 points separate Thompson from former Junior Word Team members Grant Williams (Atlanta, Ga. / Durkan Fencing / New York University) and Jonah Shainberg (Rye, N.Y. / Tim Morehouse Fencing Club / Notre Dame), who are ranked No. 5 and 6, respectively.
Known as the GOAT of both men’s and women’s fencing in the United States, Mariel Zagunis (Beaverton, Ore. / Oregon Fencing Alliance / Notre Dame) qualified for her fifth straight Olympic Team with a gold medal at the Athens World Cup in 2020. The two-time Olympic and five-time Senior World Champion gave birth to her daughter Sunday in 2017 and has since returned to the podium twice on the World Cup circuit. Zagunis is now ranked No. 9 in the world and has the potential to become the first U.S. fencer to medal at five Olympic Games.
A 2013 NCAA Champion for Princeton, Stone is the rare member of Team USA who competed only on the NCAA circuit during college, choosing to focus on her collegiate experience rather than competing on the domestic and international circuits. However, she chose to put her dreams of attending medical school after graduation on hold and made her debut at the Senior World Championships in 2013. Stone, who won the 2013 NCAA team title with her brother Rob Stone and sister Gracie Stone, won her first two medals on the World Cup circuit in 2014 and reached the individual podium at the Senior World Championships in 2018 – two years out from the original date of the Tokyo Games. Now ranked No. 6 in the world, Stone qualified for Team USA after a top-64 finish at the Budapest World Cup last month.
Similar to men’s saber, both the third individual team member and the replacement athlete positions remain open for Team USA. Dagmara Wozniak (Avenel, N.J. / Manhattan Fencing Center / St. John’s), a two-time Olympian who won bronze in the team event in 2016, holds the No. 3 position in the rankings and is aiming to qualify for her third straight team. The No. 4 position is held by Francesca Russo (Wayne, N.J. / Bergen Fencing Club / Notre Dame), who moved from No. 5 to 4 after a top-32 result at the Budapest World Cup, passing 2019 Senior World Team member Kamali Thompson (Teaneck, N.J. / Peter Westbrook Foundation). Thompson, who recently graduated from medical school at Rutgers, is currently fifth after a top-64 result in Budapest.
Jake Hoyle (New York City, N.Y. / New York Athletic Club / Columbia) made history in 2019 as the first U.S. man to win two medals on the World Cup circuit in nearly a decade with bronze medal finishes at the Doha Grand Prix and Vancouver World Cup. The two-time NCAA Champion for Columbia qualified for his first U.S. Olympic Team with a series of results that included two top-32 results on the World Cup circuit during the qualification period.
A top-eight finisher at his Senior World Championships debut in 2018, McDowald reached the senior international podium in 2019, winning bronze at the Buenos Aires World Cup and becoming the first Black U.S. men’s epee fencer to earn an individual World Cup medal. After a year off from competition, McDowald added a top-32 result at the Kazan World Cup in March to his top-16 finish in Heidenheim before the shutdown to qualify for Team USA.
A native of Guantanamo Bay, Yeisser Ramirez (Brooklyn, N.Y. / Peter Westbrook Foundation) competed for the Cuban National Team until he received a visa to move to the United States as a 21-year-old in 2007. He soon began training at the Peter Westbrook Foundation and went on to win the USA Fencing Division I National Championships in 2014. After acquiring U.S. citizenship, Ramirez represented Team USA at the 2015 Senior Worlds, but fell short in qualifying for Rio when the United States did not qualify for a team allocation. Ramirez, who also earned a top-32 result at the 2019 Berne World Cup, qualified for Tokyo after a top-64 result in Kazan.
Five athletes remain in the hunt for the team replacement position with two-time Olympian Soren Thompson (New York City, N.Y. / New York Athletic Club / Princeton) currently sitting in fourth. Dwight Smith (Elmont, N.Y. / Peter Westbrook Foundation / Columbia) moved up to No. 5 with a top-32 result in Kazan with Alen Hadzic (New York City, N.Y. / Fencers Club / Columbia) in sixth and two-time Senior World Team member Adam Rodney (New Orleans, La. / Peter Westbrook Foundation / St. John’s) in seventh. James Kaull (New York City, N.Y. / New York Athletic Club / Notre Dame), a 2019 Senior World Team member, also has the ability to crack the top four with a win in Richmond.
The younger of the Hurley sisters, Courtney Hurley (San Antonio, Texas / New York Athletic Club / Notre Dame) won team bronze with sister Kelley Hurley at the 2012 Olympic Games and made history in the individual competition at the 2018 Senior World Championships, where she won Team USA’s first-ever individual medal for an epee fencer with bronze. She returned to the podium in the team event in 2018 as well, winning the Senior World title with the squad – the first-ever medal at the Worlds for Team USA in women’s epee. A four-time individual medalist on the World Cup circuit, Courtney began the qualification period with a silver medal finish at the Dubai World Cup in 2019 and placed in the top 64 at the Kazan World Cup last month.
A three-time Olympian who represented Team USA for the first time in Beijing, Kelley Hurley (San Antonio, Texas / New York Athletic Club / Notre Dame) spent the break from competition beginning her first year in medical school and qualified for her fourth Olympic Team in March with a top-32 result at the Kazan World Cup. Currently ranked No. 16 in the world, Hurley holds two individual medals on the World Cup circuit and narrowly missed a third with a top-eight finish at the Havana World Cup in 2020. Together, the Hurley sisters have competed at a dozen Senior World Championships and two Olympic Games, winning gold together at the 2018 Senior Worlds and bronze at the 2012 Olympic Games.
Kat Holmes (Washington, D.C. / New York Athletic Club / Princeton) has been a fixture on the U.S. Women’s Epee Team since qualifying for her first Senior World Championships in 2013. Now the anchor of Team USA, Holmes led the squad to its 2018 Senior World title with a series of overtime finishes. Holmes, who deferred medical school for a year to train for Tokyo during the COVID shutdown, earned a top-eight result in Doha in 2020 and qualified for Tokyo after a top-32 result in Kazan last month.
A three-time Senior World Team member and the first U.S. women's epee fencer to win individual gold at a World Cup in the Olympic era, Anna van Brummen (Houston, Texas / Alliance Fencing Academy / Princeton) earned her position on the Tokyo squad with a series of results that included a top-16 finish in Doha in 2020 and a top-32 in Dubai in 2019. Van Brummen, who earned her master’s degree in geophysics in Switzerland while training for the Tokyo Games in 2019, now balances training with her career as an environmental scientist.
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