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Mariel Zagunis Opens Season With Orleans Saber Grand Prix Gold

02/12/2012, 8:48am CST
By No Author

(Colorado Springs, Colo.) – Mariel Zagunis (Beaverton, Ore.) successfully defended her 2011 Orleans Saber Grand Prix title in France on Saturday – a win that helped Zagunis retain her #1 world ranking and move into the #1 spot in the Adjusted Olympic Rankings.

Exempt from competing in the pools on Friday, Zagunis opened the tournament with a pair of 15-9 wins over Aida Alasgarova (AZE) and Solenne Mary (FRA) to advance to the table of 16 where she earned another decisive victory over Alessandra Lucchino (ITA), 15-10.

Zagunis won her quarter-final bout against Gioia Marzocca (ITA), 15-11, to advance to the evening semifinal session.

Fresh off a 15-9 upset of 2011 Senior World medalist Julia Gavrilova (RUS), Zagunis’s semifinal opponent was Ji-Yeon Kim (KOR).

Zagunis won the bout against Kim, 15-10, to advance to the final bout against Sophia Velikaia (RUS) – the three-time Senior World medalist who defeated Zagunis, 15-14, in the gold medal final at the last Worlds in October.

This time, Zagunis controlled the bout for a 15-8 win – her first over Velikaia since the semifinals of this event in 2011.

The win solidifies Zagunis’s top world ranking while Velikaia remains in the #2 position.

Two of Zagunis’s teammates also competed on Saturday.

Dagmara Wozniak (Avenel, N.J.) and Ibtihaj Muhammad (Maplewood, N.J.) – both of whom won bronze in the team event with Zagunis at the 2011 Senior Worlds – each advanced to the table of 32.

Seeded 13th, Wozniak was exempt from the pools and won her table of 64 bout against Yuliya Zhivitsa (KAZ), 15-9.

In the table of 32, Xiaodong Chen (CHN) took a 12-8 lead, but Wozniak came back to tie the bout at 13. Although Chen scored the next touch, Wozniak scored again for a 14-14 tie before Chen won the bout, 15-14. The loss left Wozniak with a 20th place overall finish.

Muhammad, the 33rd seed after the pools, opened her first bout against Seira Nakayama (JPN) fast and built a 8-2 lead and went on to win the bout, 15-9.

Muhammad’s next bout pitted her against Velikaia who won the bout by just three touches with a score of 15-12.

Top eight and U.S. results are as follows, including athletes who were eliminated after the preliminary rounds on Friday:

Orleans Saber Grand Prix
1. Mariel Zagunis (Beaverton, Ore.)

2. Sophia Velikaia (RUS)
3. Olga Zhovnir (UKR)
3. Ji Yeon Kim (KOR)
5. Julia Gavrilova (RUS)
6. Gioia Marzocca (ITA)
7. Xiaodong Chen (CHN)
8. Vassiliki Vougiouka (GRE)

20. Dagmara Wozniak (Avenel, N.J.)
28. Ibtihaj Muhammad (Maplewood, N.J.)
68. Aziza Hassan (Brooklyn, N.Y.)
89. Celina Merza (Wayne, N.J.)
101. Faizah Muhammad (Maplewood, N.J.)
108. Daria Schneider (New York City, N.Y.)
110. Francesca Russo (Wayne, N.J.)

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