(London) – As the youngest squad in the women’s team foil event, Team USA finished sixth on Thursday at the Olympic Games.
Seeded sixth seed at the Games, Lee Kiefer (Lexington, Ky.), Nzingha Prescod (Brooklyn, N.Y.) and Nicole Ross (New York City, N.Y.) took the strip in the opening bout against Korea – a team the Americans have not defeated on the World Cup circuit.
Although the trio came within two touches of Korea in the third bout and Prescod posted a 6-4 win in the seventh against Gil Ok Jung, the more experienced squad prevailed and Korea earned the win, 45-31.
“We’d prepared for that bout for months and it was devastating to lose that bout. But I think that’s something about our character. We never give up. We’re fighting through it all the time, every single touch, every minute of every period and we’re not quitting,” Ross said.
With less than 15 minutes to regroup for the 5th – 8th place match against Japan, Kiefer and Prescod shut out Chieko Sugawara and Kanae Ikehata in the opening bouts. By the end of the fifth bout, Team USA was up, 24-11, and Doris Willette (Lafayette, Calif.), a two-time Olympic Team replacement athlete, was substituted into the tournament for Ross.
The sub in meant that Willette, who did not compete in the individual event, would earn status as an Olympian and Ross would sit out the remainder of the tournament.
With Willette as the newest member of the lineup, Kiefer anchored the team to a 44-22 victory.
After the match, Ross came through the interview zone with her arm around Willette.
“She just said ‘Finally I’m an Olympian’ and I said ‘You know, Doris, you were an Olympian four years ago in my mind.’ She is one of the greatest athletes on our team and one of the greatest people. I certainly look up to her,” Ross said. “I had tears in my eyes when she went in and a lot of people may have thought it was because I was upset at being taken out, but Doris is my roommate, my best friend and to see her finally up there where she deserves to be was an incredible moment.”
In the 5th – 6th place match against Poland, Willette was moved into the anchor position in the lineup against Poland. Although Willette outscored 2004 Olympic medalist Sylwia Gruchala, 8-7, in the final bout, Team USA lost the match, 45-39, to finish sixth overall.
Willette described the experience of finally competing in the Games as “amazing.”
“I really can’t describe it any other way other than amazing. The first bout when I was put in which Japan I was kind of stunned that I was being put in and I think I fenced pretty well. The first two bouts with Poland, I think it finally hit me that, oh my gosh, I’m fencing in the Olympics,” Willette said. “So I was a little more hesitant and probably didn’t fence as well as I could have and, finally, in the last one, I was like ‘Oh my gosh, what am I doing? This is the chance of a lifetime. Fence your best.’ So I felt like my last bout was really strong. She’s a tough anchor.”
Coach Amgad Khazbak (Lexington, Ky.) said he is looking forward to the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games where he believes Team USA could contend for a gold if there’s a team event.
“Our team is the youngest team here and we have a good future. If there’s a women’s foil team event in 2016, I guarantee we’ll get a medal and there’s a big probability that we’d win gold. The girls are young and they need more experience against other teams. Most of the other teams are older than our kids and I think it would be different during the next Olympics if we have team in women’s foil,” Coach Khazbak said.
Competition continues on Friday with the men’s saber team event in which Daryl Homer (Bronx, N.Y.), Tim Morehouse (New York City, N.Y.), James Williams (Sacramento, Calif. / New York City, N.Y.) and replacement athlete Jeff Spear (Wynantskill, N.Y. / New York City, N.Y.) will attempt to improve on the silver medal Team USA won in this event in Beijing.
Competition schedule is as follows:
Men’s Team Saber
11:30 a.m. – Quarter-finals
12:30 p.m. – Semifinals
2:30 p.m. – 5th – 6th and 7th – 8th Place Matches
6 p.m. – Bronze Medal Match
6:45 p.m. – Gold Medal Match
Top eight results for the women’s team saber event are as follows:
Women’s Team Foil
8. Great Britain