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Team USA Wins Women’s Saber and Men’s Epee Gold at Pan American Championships

07/08/2011, 8:35am CDT
By No Author

(Reno, Nev.) – After a successful series of individual events at the Pan American Zonal Championships, Team USA continued to collect gold on the first day of team competition on Thursday. 

The U.S. Men’s Epee Team earned its first Pan Am Zonal gold medal while the U.S. Women’s Saber Team continued its undefeated streak at this event.

The reigning World silver medalists in men’s epee, Team USA entered the Pan Ams looking to build on recent success that has included three World Cup podium finishes this year.

“We’ve never won Zonals before and I think this is a very representative result of who we’re fencing right now and it gives us confidence going into Worlds,” said Seth Kelsey (Colorado Springs, Colo.) who was Team USA’s anchor throughout the day. “I want to be World Champion and I think we showed last year that we’re of that caliber and we’ve gotten better and have four strong team members and I think we’ve got it all dialed in now.”

Kelsey joined with teammates Soren Thompson (New York City, N.Y.), Cody Mattern (Colorado Springs, Colo.) and Ben Bratton (New York City, N.Y.) to win the first two bouts of the day against Mexico, 45-18, and Chile, 45-17, to advance to the final bout against Canada.

In the gold medal final, the U.S. Team kept the score low and led Canada, 13-11, after Thompson finished the seventh bout and Mattern increased the lead to 18-13.

During the final bout, what had been a methodical match became more frenzied as Kelsey and Tigran Bajgoric (CAN) combined to score a total of 24 touches.

With four seconds on the clock, Kelsey scored a touch to take the lead to 28-26. Bajgoric scored again during the last two seconds, but Kelsey defended the Canadian’s final attack to win gold, 28-27.

“I’ve fenced Tigran five times this year and he won the one at our last World Cup so I watched video with our coach and all of our lessons last week were ‘how to beat Tigran.’ I beat him in the 16 the other day and then fenced him again today and I could not have been more prepared for that final,” Kelsey said. “We had the strategy to keep a low score, try and pick up a touch here and there and Cody saw some opportunities in the final match and he was able to capitalize on them. I could not be happier to have a five-touch lead coming into the final and managed to hang on to it.”

U.S. Women's Saber Team (L-R): Mariel Zagunis, Daria Schneider, Ed Korfanty, Ibtihaj Muhammad and Dagmara Wozniak.

In the women’s saber competition, the team of Dagmara Wozniak (Avenel, N.J.), Ibtihaj Muhammad (Maplewood, N.J.), Daria Schneider (New York City, N.Y.) and Mariel Zagunis (Beaverton, Ore.) were favored to win gold as no other country besides the United States has ever won a women’s saber title at the Pan Am Zonal Championships.

Team USA dominated the semifinal against the Dominican Republic to win the bout, 45-30, and advance to the final against Venezuela.

The Americans trailed Venezuela for the first five bouts, but Wozniak outscored Maria Blanco (VEN), seven touches to one to take a 25-21 lead for Team USA.

Schneider and Muhammad helped to grow the lead and Wozniak had a 13-touch cushion (40-27) going into the final bout against Alejandra Benitez (VEN). Anchoring the team for just the second time in a major international competition, Wozniak held Benitez to just two touches to win the bout, 45-29.

After the win, Wozniak said she hadn’t fenced like herself in the opening bout of the final, but her confidence improved during her second and third bouts against the Venezuelans.

“I think it was definitely nerves. And I feel like the Daga who fenced that first one was the same Daga from the 16 the other day,” Wozniak said in reference to her loss in the table of 16 during the individual event. “I just focused on the next bout, though, and I knew we were down, but just treated it like 0-0. It’s like a battle with yourself and I knew I could do it because it doesn’t matter if it’s 40-15, you can never say it’s over and we could have crashed and shut down, but when you physically tell yourself you’re going to do it, that’s what’s going to happen.”

Competition continues on Friday with the men’s team foil and women’s team epee events.

U.S. athletes scheduled to compete are as follows:

Men’s Team Foil
Alexander Massialas (San Francisco, Calif.)
Gerek Meinhardt (San Francisco, Calif.)
Miles Chamley-Watson (Philadelphia, Pa.)
Race Imboden (Brooklyn, N.Y.)

Women’s Team Epee
Lindsay Campbell (Brooklyn, N.Y.)
Maya Lawrence (Tea Neck, N.J.)
Courtney Hurley (San Antonio, Texas)
Kelley Hurley (San Antonio, Texas)

Top eight results are as follows:

Men’s Team Epee
1. USA
2. Canada
3. Venezuela
4. Chile
5. Brazil
6. Colombia
7. Mexico
8. Puerto Rico

Women’s Team Saber
1. USA
2. Venezuela
3. Mexico
4. Dominican Republic

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