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USA Fencing Announces Hiring of New National Coaches

01/20/2022, 3:45pm CST
By Serge Timacheff

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo., January 20, 2022—USA Fencing today officially announced the hiring of national weapon coaches Greg Massialas, Ralf Bissdorf, Franco Cerutti, Sergey Danilov, Natalie Dostert, Cédric Loiseau, Akhnaten Spencer-EL, and Aleksander Ochocki to lead U.S. fencers to upcoming competitions and through the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.

“We are thrilled to hire such a diverse group of talented and skilled coaches to support our athletes,” said Kate Reisinger, Chief of Sport Performance. “With these coaches, we can build off the momentum generated over the last quadrennium and continue improving our performance at all levels."

“I’d like to sincerely thank our out-going coaches Kornel Udvarheyli, Sebastien dos Santos, Zoran Tulum, Andrey Geva and Yury Gelman for their tireless support of the program over the last quadrennium. USA Fencing is better because of their involvement on the Team and we are very grateful for their time and efforts,” said Reisinger.

Men’s Foil Coach: Greg Massialas

As the national men’s foil coach for the last decade, Coach Massialas continues to bring his elite fencing expertise to USA Fencing’s domination of world men’s foil. The squad has been ranked number one in the world the past four years. He has successfully driven the team to multiple Olympic, World Championship, Grand Prix and World Cup medals and world titles. Coach Massialas has worked with all levels of fencers, from youth and cadet to junior, senior and veteran. A member of the USA Fencing Hall of Fame, his students have won five Olympic and five Youth Olympic medals. He is the owner of the Massialas Foundation (MTEAM) club in San Francisco where his students have won 45 World Championship medals. Massialas was an All-American and Ivy Champion for Cornell University and earned a degree in business and marketing from San Jose State University. He is the recipient of a Congressional Gold Medal as a member of the 1980 Olympic Team and competed in foil at the 1984 and 1988 Summer Olympic Games.

Women’s Foil Interim Coach: Ralf Bissdorf

Coach Bissdorf has been the lead foil coach at the Marx Fencing Academy in Concord, Massachusetts since 2016, and will now act as interim coach for the USA Women’s Foil team. Prior to his work in the USA, he was the head coach of Singapore Sports School’s Fencing Academy from 2012 until 2016, and before that was the high-performance director at Singapore’s Z Fencing Pte. Ltd. Originally from Germany, he competed in the 2000 and 2004 Olympic Games, winning a silver medal in individual foil at the Sydney 2000 Games. He was also a team world champion, individual and team European champion and Germany individual national champion. He studied political science at the University of Augsburg, Germany.

Epee Director: Franco Cerutti

Coach Cerutti brings a broad range of elite coaching experience to USA Fencing, most recently as the Swiss Fencing executive director of high performance and chief-of-mission and director of performance at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. He led the Swiss to their first-ever senior world title when the men’s team epee won gold at the 2018 Wuxi Senior Fencing World Championships. Prior to that role, he coached Swiss Fencing youth squads and was the head coach for junior squads at European and World Championships. Coach Cerutti has a diverse background, including extensive work and education in event, hotel and restaurant management in Europe, USA and other regions in addition to his ongoing passion for and work in fencing. He holds several degrees and diplomas in sports, including being a Maitre d’Armes from the British Academy of Fencing, a Coach in Competitive Sports with Federal Diploma of Professional Education and Training from the Swiss Federal Office of Sport (BASPO) and an Entraineur Diplome de Sport d’Elite from the same office. As the Epee Director, Cerutti will oversee both the men’s and women’s epee programs and help build a pipeline of epee athletes and coaches in order to achieve sustained international success at the highest level.

Men’s Epee: Sergey Danilov

Coach Danilov has been the Head Coach and co-owner of the New York Fencing Academy in Long Island since 2018. He works with all levels of fencers and manages the coaching and staff. Prior to that, he was the epee coach at Houston’s Alliance Fencing Academy, where he, along with Andrey Geva, developed epee training programs that included training and coaching of numerous elite and highly ranked fencers who achieved national, collegiate and international medals. His student, Ariel Simmons, was individual cadet world champion in 2013. He also coached Sean Wilson, who earned a team world gold medal at the 2016 Junior and Cadet Fencing World Championships in Bourges. From 2014 to the present, Coach Danlilov has been the designated cadet and junior U.S. men’s national team coach for athletes at World Cups, World Championships and the Pan American Games, and he coached the team to a fourth-place result at the 2016 and 2017 Junior and Cadet Fencing World Championships. His background includes coaching positions at the Fencing Alliance of Ohio and the Youth Sport Club of Olympic Reserve in Saint Petersburg, Russia, and he holds a master’s degree in physical culture and sports/education from the P.F. Lesgaft National State University of Physical Training, Sports and Health. His numerous awards include the “Master of Sports of Russia” and the Development Fencing Coach of the Year from the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee.

Women’s Epee Head Coach: Natalie Dostert

Coach Dostert is the cadet and junior designated Team USA women’s epee coach and since 2016 has trained several U.S. national team members and guided athletes to international junior and cadet medals. As an epee coach at the Alliance Fencing Academy in Houston since 2015, Dostert has been responsible for creating and executing coaching programs for fencers of all ages, with a focus on the club’s cadet, junior and senior national and international training and competition programs. She has worked with several notable elite U.S. fencers, including Kelley and Courtney Hurley, Anna Van Brummen and Francesca Bassa. Prior to that, she was the head epee coach at the Olympischer Fechtclub in Bonn, Germany, from 2013 to 2015. Herself a German national team and university champion, she holds a German “Coaching ‘A’” license from the German Fencing Federation. Coach Dostert also received a Bachelor of Science degree in biology from the University of Bonn.

Women’s Epee Assistant Coach: Cédric Loiseau

Coach Loiseau comes to USA Fencing from the University of Notre Dame, where he has been the associate head fencing coach and recruiting coordinator since 2015. He leads the epee squad at Notre Dame, which regularly qualifies fencers for international World Cup events at both the junior and senior levels. Prior to 2015, he was the Fighting Irish assistant fencing coach and led the epee squad since 2012, including working with renowned elite athletes including Olympic medalist Courtney Hurley and Polish world team member and senior World Championship silver medalist, Ewa Trzebinska. Under Coach Loiseau, the epee squad took NCAA individual gold (women) and silver (men) medals. Prior to Notre Dame, he was the fencing coach for the Châlons en Champagne Fencing Center in Champagne, France and an instructor at Reims Champagne Ardennes University. Including his work as a Team USA designated coach and French national team experience, his athletes have earned numerous international and national medals and high-level results. He is a Sports Ministry Fencing Coach and holds a second-degree Maitre d’Armes diploma and a baccalaureate in Economy.

Men’s Saber Coach: Akhnaten Spencer-EL

Spencer-El has served as the saber coach at the New York Fencers Club in conjunction with the Peter Westbrook Foundation (PWF) since 2008. Now an alumnus of the PWF program, he serves as a coach with its Saturday program and is responsible for the overall development and programming for its current saber students. He possesses an impressive resume of accomplishments, coaching students at all levels, who have medaled on the cadet, junior, and senior levels, including Olympic medalists Ibtihaj Muhammad and Daryl Homer. Spencer-El is also the saber coach at Columbia University and has held the role since 2013, leading the team to NCAA titles in 2015, 2016 and 2019. In 2015, Spencer-El was selected to lead the U.S. National Women’s Saber team at the Toronto Pan American Games, and both men’s and women’s teams at the same event in Guadalajara in 2011. 

Prior to his current coaching roles, Spencer-El worked at the Manhattan Fencing Center (MFC) under Coach Yury Gelman, coach of the 2008 Men’s Saber Olympic silver medal team. Prior to coaching at MFC, he coached at New Jersey Fencing Alliance and the Houston Inner City Fencing Program. Spencer-El holds a master’s degree in physical education from Semmelweis University in Budapest, Hungary, where he graduated with honors. 

Akhnaten "Akhi" Spencer-El will serve as the first Black national coach in USA Fencing history.

Women’s Saber Coach: Aleksander Ochocki

Coach Ochocki was the assistant saber coach at the University of Notre Dame from 2017 to 2019, where he was responsible for all saber recruiting and development. His success at Notre Dame included multiple team and individual NCAA champions, including two Academic All-Americans. Prior to that, he served as the team captain for the 2018 Junior and Cadet Fencing World Championships in Verona, Italy – from which the USA returned with the most medals in its history. He has also served as a designated national coach at the cadet, junior and senior level. Several of his students, in addition to being selected for world championship teams, also earned medals at numerous world-level events. Coach Ochocki has a degree in recreation, park, and tourism management from Pennsylvania State University, and was a 2010 Academic All-American and member of their men’s fencing team and an NCAA champion. He was also a six-time U.S. national champion and member of USA Fencing world teams from 2005 to 2010 and again in 2013.  He earned a bronze medal at the 2010 Junior and Cadet Fencing World Championships in Baku and a gold medal at the 2013 senior Pan American Games.

The hiring process for USA Fencing's next Parafencing Coach is underway. 

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