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Kiefers Make Gold a Family Affair at the North American Cup

11/12/2011, 9:22am CST
By USA Fencing


(Austin, Texas) – After nearly a solid month of travel in which 17-year-old Lee Kiefer (Lexington, Ky.) won bronze at the Senior World Championships and individual and team golds at the Pan American Games, the sixth-ranked foil fencer in the world returned to junior (U20) competition at the November North American Cup on Friday at the Austin Convention Center.

“I registered months ago before Worlds and actually almost forgot I was fencing this one until a few weeks ago,” Kiefer laughed. “But it’s always important to get more experience no matter where you are.”

Kiefer cruised through the day where she won all of her bouts in the table by scores of 15-1 and 15-4 before meeting Mona Shaito – one of Kiefer’s former U.S. teammates who now competes for Lebanon and also fenced at the Senior World Championships last month.

Kiefer pulled out a 15-13 win to move onto the semifinals against Margaret Lu (Greenwich, Conn.)

Although the NAC is a junior event, the semifinal pitted two 2012 Olympic hopefuls against each other as Kiefer fenced Lu, the two-time reigning Division I National Champion, in a gold medal final for the second time this year.

As the two have competed together at the cadet (U17), junior and senior level, the bout was close as always with the two exchanging touches until Kiefer took an 11-8 lead before winning the bout, 15-12.

In the gold medal final, Kiefer started slowly against Russian Alina Antokhina, but quickly built momentum to finish the bout, 15-8.

After her win, Kiefer said that there are a lot of similarities between fencing domestic events and international tournaments as many of her U.S. teammates are also highly ranked international fencers.

“It’s different competing in the U.S., but I fenced Doris [Willette] at Worlds and Nzingha [Prescod] in Guadalajara so not as much as you’d think because I still fenced Americans internationally, too and it’s kind of expected that we’ll all fence each other a lot no matter where we are,” Kiefer said.

Kiefer’s gold medal was the second time a member of her family stood on the podium on Saturday as her 15-year-old brother Axel won his second NAC title of a season that has included just three domestic events.

Tied for first with top-ranked Stephen Mageras (Darien, Conn.) after the pools, Kiefer and Mageras each won five straight bouts in the tables to advance to the gold medal final where Kiefer dominated the bout and earned a 15-2 victory.

“I wasn’t fencing great earlier in the day, but I just powered my way through and then later on I knew it was going to get difficult so I tried to eat a lot and keep a lot of energy,” Kiefer said. “That last bout, I got really excited when I got up a few and that’s basically what fueled me. If I’d been down against him, it probably would have been a lot more difficult.”

With one older sister who is a Senior World medalist and another [19-year-old Alexandra] who won the NCAA Championships as a freshman at Harvard, one would think there might be pressure coming from a fencing family, but Axel maintains that his siblings are all laid back about it.

“People would expect there’s a lot of expectation, but I really don’t feel a lot of that and it’s great to be able to fence with her in practice even though she destroys me,” Kiefer joked after the medal ceremony as Lee was competing in the pools elsewhere in the venue.

Although Axel just turned 16 in September, he is already ranked as the #2 cadet fencer in the nation and is aiming to qualify for the team that will compete at the Junior and Cadet World Championships in March in Moscow alongside his sister who has won three Junior and three Cadet medals at the event.

“That’d be awesome to be at Worlds with her and I’m really hoping to make the team, but now I’m just taking it tournament by tournament,” said Axel who also will compete in the junior men’s foil event on Sunday.

With less than two years of fencing experience under her belt, 16-year-old Adrienne Jarocki (Middle Village, N.Y.) won her first NAC title in the cadet women’s saber event.

Following her 15-9 over Anastasia Pineschi (Los Angeles, Calif.) in the quarters, Jarocki came from behind to defeat fourth ranked Lena Johnson (Peachtree City, Ga.), 15-14, in her next bout.

“In my bout against Lena, I was down by a lot, but I persevered. I tried to use my legs and not just stand there. By that time of day you’re just really tired and you have to push through it,” Jarocki said.

In the gold medal bout, Jarocki led from the start against Haley Fisher (Kennesaw, Ga.) and soon held a 13-9 lead. Although Fisher made a three-touch run, Jarocki ended the bout, 15-12.

“It feels amazing to win your first NAC. All day I just focused on trying not to give up even when you’re down a lot,” said the former ballroom dancer who attributes much of her early success to natural athleticism.

“I really like my coach and I really have a good connection with him, so that helps a lot and I’m really just kind of athletic so that kind of helped too,” said Jarocki who transitioned to fencing because she said she prefers individual competition. “Ballroom dancing is a sport with two people and I wanted a sport that was solo so I was responsible for everything. So when I outgrew my dance partner I decided to try fencing.”

Jarocki will compete against this weekend on Monday when she takes the strip in the junior saber event.  

In the Y14 men’s epee event, 14-year-old Darius Zacharakis (Houston, Texas) won his first North American Cup title.

After a 15-12 win over Michael Popovici (Katy, Texas) in the semifinals, Zacharakis fenced Canadian Qi Fan Wang in the gold medal bout. Zacharakis trailed by a touch against Wang with 12 seconds on the clock, but he came back to tie the bout in the final four seconds.

With the bout tied, Zacharakis scored the first overtime touch to earn the win, 10-9.

Competition continues on Saturday with the approximate schedule as follows:

8:30 a.m.
Junior Men’s Epee
Cadet Men’s Saber

1:30 p.m.
Y14 Men’s Foil

2:30 p.m.
Y14 Women’s Saber

3:30 p.m.
Junior Women’s Epee

Click here for full results. Top eight results are as follows:

Junior Women’s Foil
1. Lee Kiefer (Lexington, Ky.)
2. Alina Antokhina (RUS)
3. Margaret Lu (Greenwich, Conn.)
3. Sabrina Massialas (San Francisco, Calif.)
5. Sara Taffel (New York City, N.Y.)
6. Luona Wang (Birmingham, Ala.)

7. Mona Shaito (LIB)
8. Eleanor Harvey (CAN)

Cadet Men’s Foil
1. Axel Kiefer (Lexington, Ky.)
2. Stephen Mageras (Darien, Conn.)
3. Raymond Chen (Dallas, Texas)
3. Darren Mei (Foster City, Calif.)
5. John Vaiani (Belmar, N.J.)
6. John Avendano (Colts Neck, N.J.)
7. Thomas Dudey (Bellaire, Texas)
8. Spicer Emge (Los Angeles, Calif.)

Cadet Women’s Saber
1. Adrienne Jarocki (Middle Village, N.Y.)
2. Haley Fisher (Kennesaw, Ga.)
3. Lena Johnson (Peachtree City, Ga.)
3. Hee-Kyung Oh (Allendale, N.J.)
5. Allison Lee (Saddle River, N.J.)
6. Anastasia Pineschi (Los Angeles, Calif.)
7. Skyla Powers (Decatur, Ga.)
8. Allison Barry (Cranford, N.J.)

Y14 Men’s Epee
1. Darius Zacharakis (Houston, Texas)
2. Qi Fan Wang (CAN)
3. Michael Popovici (Katy, Texas)
3. Charles Horowitz (Los Angeles, Calif.)
5. Zachary Zeller (Canton, Mich.)
6. Robin Cheong (San Antonio, Texas)
7. Ian Crocker (Aurora, Colo.)
8. Daniel Cotter (Windermere, Fla.)

Tag(s): News  Lee Kiefer