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Ward, Mattern and Kiefer Win Gold at January NAC in Portland

01/16/2012, 2:49am CST
By No Author

(Portland, Ore.) – The biggest crowd of the day at the January North American Cup came during the middle of the afternoon on Sunday when the finals strip became standing room only as two-time Olympic medalist Becca Ward (Durham, N.C.) competed in a USA Fencing event for the first time since 2010.

Ward, who won bronze as part of the historic U.S. sweep of the women’s saber podium at the 2008 Olympic Games, had cruised through the day’s bouts and qualified for the gold medal final after a 15-8 victory over 2011 Senior World team medalist Ibtihaj Muhammad (Maplewood, N.J.) – the same fencer she lost to in the semifinals of her last appearance at the 2010 NAC A in Cincinnati.  

In the finals, Ward defeated two-time Olympian Alejandra Benitez (VEN), 15-12, to win gold – a victory she celebrated with her teammates from Duke University where the former World Champion is now a two-time NCAA Champion.

“I had pretty sound victories up until the final. No one got more than 10 points on me until the final, so I’m pretty happy with today,” said Ward who earned the win in the city she lived and trained in through the 2008 Games.

But, make no mistake, she maintains there’s no plans for another Olympic run.

“You know, when I went to Cincinnati in 2010 and coming here, every other person has asked me if I’m coming back and what I’m doing. I get that question a lot and I’m done with international competition. I’ve done that and I’m moving on and doing different things with my life,” said Ward who is now a junior at Duke where she is studying public policy with an emphasis on the environment.

Ward said she continues fencing because she loves the sport and enjoys the camaraderie of her college teammates who posed on the podium with Ward and held

“I love fencing, even fencing in an individual competition like this one, with the support of my team so much more than I ever did before,” she said. “Just having that never ending support and that constant knowledge that everything will be ok no matter what is really really helpful to me. I love fencing to a crowd. I love fencing in front of my teammates and that’s what I really really enjoy about college fencing.”

Athens Olympian Cody Mattern (Tigard, Ore.) also returned to his hometown for the NAC.

Mattern, a member of the World Class Athlete Program, now trains at the U.S. Olympic Training Center, but returned home for the holidays and a training camp several weeks ago.

Seeded first out of the pools, Mattern earned five straight wins to advance to the quarter-finals where he defeated two-time Junior World Team member Adam Watson (Richford, Vt.), 15-9.

In the semifinals, Mattern won his bout against former European U23 medalist Andras Peterdi (HUN), 15-11.

Fencing as the hometown favorite in front of a cheering crowd of family and friends, Mattern defeated Yeisser Ramirez (Bronx, N.Y.), 15-8, just two rounds after Ramirez upset 2004 Olympian Soren Thompson (New York City, N.Y.) in the quarter-finals.

“I fenced really focused today. My main goal today was to maintain a light control in all my bouts and never let my emotions get out of control and, after each touch, to bring myself down and come back in and to not let myself get ahead and then just relax,” Mattern said.

Although his family and friends expressed concern over being a distraction, Mattern said he enjoyed being able to fence in front of his biggest supporters.

“It’s very motivating. It’s very nice to have such a great team here to support me and to be at home and a lot of my family was here and they all asked ‘Does it bother you that we’re here? Do you mind’ and I said ‘No. As long as you don’t mind that I’m going to be focused on what I’m here for,’” Mattern said. “It’s nice for them to get to see what I do for a living and I like having a crowd. My goal is always to fence well, regardless, but it’s nice to be able to show them what I can do and do it well.”

In February, Mattern will return to the World Cup circuit where he is working to qualify for a slot at the Olympic Games in London.

“I want to keep fencing like I fenced today and make finals. I’ve gotta make top eights and my job is to represent the Army well and qualify for the Olympics,” he said. “I’m coming in with a deficit. I missed the first two World Cups last year due to a calf injury and I have a lot to make up. I feel like I’m fencing as well as I’m ever gonna fence to make up some ground.”

Seventeen-year-old Lee Kiefer (Lexington, Ky.) won her third Junior NAC title of the season when the reigning Senior World medalist earned gold in the U20 foil event.

With three of the top-five U.S. women’s foil fencers still junior eligible, Kiefer was one of three Olympic hopefuls in the event.

In the semifinals, Kiefer defeated 13-year-old Morgan Partridge (Swansea, Mass.), 15-3, while 2011 Junior World Champion Nzingha Prescod (Brooklyn, N.Y.) won a battle against 2011 Junior World bronze medalist Margaret Lu (Greenwich, Conn.), 15-9.

Kiefer’s gold medal final was her third in the past year against Prescod who defeated Kiefer at the Junior Worlds in April, but lost their Pan American Games final in October.

Kiefer came out on top again as she won the bout, 15-11.

“Nzingha and I obviously fence against each other all the time and today we both knew what the other one was going to do, but I thought I fenced well,” said Kiefer who won gold in the Division I event on Friday. “I had a day in between the two, so it wasn’t too bad, but my hamstring was super tight all day and I was really worried I was going to pull it lunging, so props to me that didn’t happen!”

Competition continues on Monday with the schedule as follows:

Monday, January 16
8:30 a.m.
Division I Men’s Foil
Junior Women’s Epee

11 a.m.
Junior Men’s Saber

Visit for complete results.

Top eight results are as follows:

Division I Women’s Saber
1. Becca Ward (Durham, N.C.)
2. Alejandra Benitez (VEN)
3. Ibtihaj Muhammad (Maplewood, N.J.)
3. Emma Keehan (Erie, Pa.)
5. Eileen Grench (Palo Alto, Calif.)
6. Nicole Glon (State College, Pa.)
7. Daria Schneider (New York City, N.Y.)
8. Allison Lee (Saddle River, N.J.)

Division I Men’s Epee
1. Cody Mattern (Tigard, Ore.)
2. Yeisser Ramirez (Bronx, N.Y.)
3. Andras Peterdi (HUN)
3. Alexander Eldeib (Burke, Va.)
5. Jimmy Moody (Colorado Springs, Colo.)
6. Ben Bratton (New York City, N.Y.)
7. Soren Thompson (New York City, N.Y.)
8. Adam Watson (Richford, Vt.)

Junior Women’s Foil
1. Lee Kiefer (Lexington, Ky.)
2. Nzingha Prescod (Brooklyn, N.Y.)
3. Morgan Partridge (Swansea, Mass.)
3. Margaret Lu (Greenwich, Conn.)
5. Jacqueline Dubrovich (Riverdale, N.J.)
6. Madison Zeiss (Notre Dame, Ind.)
7. Rachel Beck (Oro Valley, Ariz.)
8. Jessie Laffey (Glen Ridge, N.J.)

Tag(s): News  Lee Kiefer