Zander Rhodes, seen fencing Emilia Corbu of Romania, was unbeaten in pools, advancing her directly into Tuesday's tableau. (Photo by #BizziTeam)
CAIRO — Zander Rhodes (South Orange, N.J.) didn't look like a fencer at her first Senior Worlds.
Wearing her signature highlighter-yellow shoes, the 19-year-old foil fencer was bright and confident in pools, finishing with a perfect 5-0 record to kick off a stellar day for the women's foil team. By lunchtime Saturday at the 2022 Fencing World Championships in Egypt, all four Team USA women's foil fencers had punched their tickets into Tuesday's main tableau of 64.
As one of the top 16 finishers in pool play (and one of just eight who went undefeated), Rhodes was able to bypass Saturday's direct elimination bouts and move straight to Tuesday, where 64 women will fence for medals.
She'll be joined by Lee Kiefer (Lexington, Ky.) and Jackie Dubrovich (Maplewood, N.J.), who were advanced directly into the main tableau without having to fence on Saturday because each is ranked in the top 16 in the world (No. 1 and No. 9, respectively).
Maia Weintraub (Philadelphia, Pa.) also had a powerful performance in pools, going 5-1 with the lone defeat a 5-4 loss to Thailand's Chayanutphat Shinnakerdchoke.
Weintraub narrowly missed the top 16 of pools finishers, meaning she needed to fence a win-and-in match for a spot in the main tableau. In that bout against Romania's Andreea Dinca, Weintraub built an early lead and didn't stop pressing, ultimately taking the 15-3 win.
The four women will return to action Tuesday, and the field is set.
In men's epee, Yeisser Ramirez (Flushing, N.Y.) emerged from pools with a 4-2 record and faced the prospect of winning two direct-elimination bouts to qualify for Tuesday's tableau of 64.
Because of the large field in men's epee (at 195 competitors, it's the largest event at Worlds), most fencers — including all four from Team USA — needed to win not one but two elimination bouts in order to advance.
In the first bout, Ramirez got past South Africa's Pavel Tychler, 15-9, to set up a match against Nodirbek Muminov of Uzbekistan.
The bout was tied at 14 when time expired, meaning the men faced a minutelong, next-touch-wins overtime.
With about 25 seconds to go, Ramirez found an opening, lunged and scored the touch. Ripping off his mask, he put his fingers to his lips as if to silence any doubters.
Ramirez will be back on the strip Tuesday to face Hungary's Mate Tamas Koch.
Justin Yoo (Long Island City, N.Y.) won his first preliminary direct elimination bout to set up a showdown with Poland's Radoslaw Zawrotniak with the winner advancing to Tuesday. Yoo also finished 14-14 but lost in overtime on a close call from the referee.
Curtis McDowald (Jamaica, N.Y.) and Alen Hadzic (West Orange, N.J.) each went 3-3 in pools before losing closely contested direct elimination bouts.
The opening round of the 2022 Fencing World Championships concludes on Sunday with our first look at the women's saber and men's foil teams. They'll fence pools and preliminary direct elimination bouts to determine who enters the main tableau of 64 on Wednesday.