PLOVDIV, Bulgaria — Stop us if you’ve heard this one before: On the first day of the Junior & Cadet Fencing World Championships, Magda Skarbonkiewicz and Colin Heathcock won the Junior Women’s Saber and Junior Men’s Saber titles.
You’re not stuck in a sci-fi time loop. It actually happened: The same pair who won these titles on the tournament’s opening day in 2022 successfully defended those crowns almost exactly one year later in 2023. But this time, there was one twist: After competing for Team Germany in 2022, Heathcock (Christian Bauer Academy) now sports the red, white and blue of Team USA.
“Winning for Team USA — I mean, feels amazing,” Heathcock says. “Winning in general feels amazing. I think this is the best feeling in the world, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything else.”
The gold medals capped off a flawless first day at the 2023 Junior & Cadet Fencing World Championships in Bulgaria. Team USA’s talented Junior Saber fencers went two for two, winning both of the tournament’s first two gold medals.
This is the first time in Team USA history that two junior fencers have won world championships in the same weapon in the same year. (It’s happened at the Cadet level but never with a pair of Team USA Juniors.)
And speaking of history, this is a fourth world championship title for Skarbonkiewicz (Oregon Fencing Alliance), adding to her 2022 Junior, 2022 Cadet and 2021 Cadet gold medals.
“I’m still feeling a little dazed — it’s like a fever dream,” Skarbonkiewicz said after standing atop the podium to hear the national anthem for the third time in the past two Junior & Cadet Worlds. “I don’t believe still that it happened, because I’d been struggling earlier. But the fact that I was able to come through mentally and emotionally felt really great.”
Skarbonkiewicz was 22nd best coming out of pools, finishing 4-1 and giving herself a slightly more difficult path toward the medal rounds. But she fought through a daunting tableau that included Sugar Katinka Battai of Hungary, who won gold at the Senior World Cup in Athens less than a month ago.
Skarbonkiewicz’s win also could signal a re-emergence for the Team USA Junior Women’s Saber dynasty of the early 2000s. From 2001 to 2006, Team USA won five of the six available world championships — two for Mariel Zagunis OLY and one each for Sada Jacobson OLY, Emily Jacobson OLY and Becca Ward OLY.
As for Heathcock, he’s made history as well — and not just by winning a Junior World Championship for two different countries. He’s also won Team USA its first Junior Men’s Saber individual world championship since 2015, when Eli Dershwitz OLY took home the gold.
Photo by #BizziTeam
Junior Women’s Saber
Junior Men’s Saber
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