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James Williams, Kelley Hurley and Michael Dudey Win Gold in Portland

01/15/2012, 7:37am CST
By No Author

(Portland, Ore.) – They say that sometimes you need to walk away from what you love to realize how much you loved it.

The people who say that are usually talking about actual relationships, but for 2008 Olympic silver medalist James Williams (New York City, N.Y.), the same rule applies to fencing.

Less than two years after winning silver in the men’s saber team event in Beijing, the Columbia graduate decided to walk away from the sport to pursue a career with a hedge fund in March of 2010. Six months later, though, Williams was back competing on his third Senior World Team and remained committed to qualifying for the London Games.

On Saturday, Williams fenced in the second of three domestic qualifying tournaments for the 2012 Games at the January North American Cup at the Oregon Convention Center in Portland and won his first NAC title since 2006.

Williams won his first three bouts by decisive margins to advance to the quarter-finals against 2011 Junior World Team member Rhys Douglas (Apache Junction, Ariz.) who had upset three-time Senior World Team member Daryl Homer (New York City, N.Y.) in the table of 32, 15-9.

Williams controlled his bout against Douglas to earn the win, 15-9, and advance to the semifinals against Jeff Spear (Wyantskill, N.Y.) who he also defeated, 15-9.

The gold medal final pitted Williams against Avery Zuck (Portland, Ore.), a former NCAA Champion who was competing in front of his hometown crowd.

“I was actually very nervous before the last bout because this quadrennial I think I’m 0 and three for that last match and I was getting nervous that I had some kind of mental block with winning competitions,” Williams said.

Although Zuck kept the score within a touch for the first half of the first period, Williams went on to dominate the remainder of the bout and earn the win, 15-7.

“I fenced better each bout today. I think I made some real progress. I was much more confident in my actions in the center so overall I think this was a big improvement for me. I was moving pretty well and I would have a premeditated action and be able to follow through with it,” Williams said.

Williams went on to say that he was happy he took a break before the final run towards Olympic qualification. 

“Fencing was driving me crazy when I stopped. I got up to 18th in the world or something like that and I really wanted to break into the top 16 in the world and I just wasn’t doing it. I was fencing worse and worse and it was driving me nuts,” Williams said. “I felt really anxious about graduating college in 2007 and wanting to start a career and that is something I still feel anxious about, but if I had stopped, I never could have come back. I haven’t made the Olympic Team yet and really hope I do, but, even if I don’t, I think the experience was worth it.”

Williams will now turn his focus to the start of the World Cup season next month.

“I was just really focused on getting a really good result at this NAC so I don’t have to worry about Nationals. I really want to put up some good results in the beginning of the international season so it doesn’t come down to the end,” Williams said.  

In 2008, Kelley Hurley (San Antonio, Texas) qualified for her first Olympic Team and competed as the lone representative for Team USA in women’s epee in Beijing.

Since then, Hurley has earned a top-16 finish at the 2010 Senior Worlds and gold medals at both the 2011 Pan Am Championships and Games, but when she failed to qualify for the table of 64 at the Senior Worlds in October, Hurley watched as her ranking fell to #4 in the nation while younger sister Courtney Hurley (San Antonio, Texas) held onto her position as #1 with the top three athletes in the national standings qualifying for individual competition in London and the fourth traveling as a replacement athlete for the team event.

With just three months remaining to qualify for Team USA, Kelley has ground to make up and she made strides in that quest on Saturday

Kelley won her first three direct elimination bouts before she fenced Courtney to qualify for the quarter-finals. After fencing each other nearly half a dozen times in 2011, the sisters were back at it again with Kelley taking an early lead before going on to win the bout, 15-10.

As epee is the only weapon in which repechage is held at the January NAC, Courtney remained in contention while Kelley secured her spot in the quarters.

Courtney qualified for the quarter-finals after a 15-9 win over her New York Athletic Club teammate Holly Buechel (New York City, N.Y.) – the first of several bouts between the Hurleys and their teammates.

“It’s always hard fencing your teammates, especially when it’s all towards the end of the day, but we do this a lot we’re used to it,” Kelley said.

In the quarter-finals, Courtney won a close bout against another NYAC teammate, 16-year-old Audrey Abend (New York City, N.Y.), 15-13, while Kelley defeated NYAC fencer Ashley Severson (Franklin Lakes, N.J.), 15-9.

Kelley held off four-time Senior World Team member and NYAC athlete Maya Lawrence (Teaneck, N.J.) by a score of 15-12 in the semifinals. The win put Kelley into the finals against Courtney who won her semi against Lacey Burt-Abram (Beaverton, Ore.), 15-10.

Much like their previous bout, Kelley took an early lead over Courtney in the gold medal final and went on to win the bout, 15-12.

“I feel like I fenced better than I have in a long time at this NAC. I’ve been training a lot and I have a lot of energy and usually the more energy I have, the better I fence and the better I fence, the happier I am, so it’s all connected,” said Kelley who is keenly aware of the fact that every bout could be the difference between competing in London and staying home.

“That’s all I think about coming into this. That’s constantly on my mind which is usually why I’m in a bad mood,” she laughed.

Like the rest of her U.S. teammates, Kelley will return to the World Cup circuit in February and maintains that her status as a past Olympic Team member doesn’t give her an advantage this time.  

“I obviously have more experience at the Olympics, but first I have to get there and I’ll take any points I can get because every one counts!” she said. “Last time was different with qualification and I was also having a fantastic year, so I was on a roll versus now where I’m in a ditch and just trying to dig myself out of it to get to light!”

In the day’s only junior event, Michael Dudey (Bellaire, Texas) earned his third junior medal this season after he took bronze in men’s foil at the London Junior World Cup in December.

Fencing 2011 Cadet World Team member Jerry Chang (Mountain View, Calif.) for gold, the score was tied at nine after the first period and 14 at the end of the second.

During the first exchange of the third period, Dudey scored a quick touch to win gold.

“I fenced very well and think I got better and better throughout the day, but I didn’t want to do anything too risky and wanted to be defensive on that last touch,” Dudey said.

Competition continues on Sunday with the schedule as follows:

Sunday, January 15
8:30 a.m.
Division I Men’s Epee
Division I Women’s Saber

1:30 p.m.
Junior Women’s Foil


Division I Women’s Epee
1. Kelley Hurley (San Antonio, Texas)
2. Courtney Hurley (San Antonio, Texas)
3. Lacey Burt-Abram (Beaverton, Ore.)
3. Maya Lawrence (Teaneck, N.J.)
5. Susannah Scanlan (St. Paul, Minn.)
6. Ashley Severson (Franklin Lakes, N.J.)
7. Jessica O’Neill-Lyublinsky (North Salem, N.Y.)
8. Audrey Abend (New York City, N.Y.)

Division I Men’s Saber
1. James Williams (New York City, N.Y.)
2. Avery Zuck (Portland, Ore.)
3. Jeff Spear (Wyantskill, N.Y.)
3. Daniel Bak (Franklin Lakes, N.J.)
5. Eli Dershwitz (Sherborn, Mass.)
6. Rhys Douglas (Apache Junction, Ariz.)
7. Alexander Ryjik Jr. (Alexandria, Va.)
8. Andrew Herczak (Randolph, N.J.)

Junior Men’s Foil
1. Michael Dudey (Bellaire, Texas)
2. Jerry Chang (Mountain View, Calif.)
3. Jason Chang (Mountain View, Calif.)
3. Stephen Mageras (Darien, Conn.)
5. Adam Mathieu (Union City, N.J.)
6. David Gomez Tanamachi (MEX)
7. Maximilien Van Haaster (CAN)
8. Brian Kaneshige (Maplewood, N.J.)

Tag(s): News  Kelley Hurley