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Team USA Sweeps Pan Am Individual Golds for First Time Ever

07/07/2011, 12:43pm CDT
By Nicole Jomantas

(Reno, Nev.) – Competing in the only three-weapon international Olympic qualifying event in North America on Wednesday, Team USA earned two more gold medals on Wednesday to complete a sweep of all six individual Pan American Zonal Championship titles at the Reno-Sparks Convention Center.

Twenty-year-old Daryl Homer (New York City, N.Y.) and 17-year-old Lee Kiefer (Lexington, Ky.) earned gold medal wins in the men’s saber division and women’s foil divisions, respectively, which gave Team USA a total of six gold medals at the event – the first time a U.S. team has ever swept individual titles at the Pan Ams.

As the last two individual medals earned at the Pan Ams, Kiefer and Homer’s wins marked the 13th and 14th medals for the U.S. Team out of a possible 24 this week.

After finishing eighth at the 2010 Pan Ams, Homer entered this year’s event as the #23 saber fencer in the world and was determined to improve on his previous result in front of a home crowd.

The fifth seed in the tournament after pools, Homer began the table of 32 with strong wins against Christian Lopez (PUR), 15-1, and Julio Cesar Montoya Polanco (COL), 15-7.

Homer won his quarter-final bout against Hernan Jansen (VEN), 15-10, to advance to the evening medal rounds as the only U.S. athlete in the top four after 2008 Olympic silver medalists Tim Morehouse (New York City, N.Y.) and James Williams (New York City, N.Y.) each fell in the quarters.

Morehouse, who defeated his top-seeded teammate Ben Igoe (Staten Island, N.Y.) in the table of 16, 15-7, lost his quarter-final bout to Philippe Beaudry (CAN), 15-5 and finished seventh. Williams lost his bout to Alexander Achten (ARG) by a touch, 15-14, to place sixth.

In the semifinals, Homer began his bout with Beaudry well and took a 8-4 lead at the half that grew to 12-6. Although Beaudry made a late run, Homer finished out the bout with a 15-10 win.

Fencing for gold, Homer held a 9-4 lead against Vincent Couturier (CAN), but Couturier scored five touches in a row to tie the bout, 9-9. After swapping touches, the bout came down to 14-14 with Homer scoring the final point to win the bout, 15-14.

“Last year I lost in the eight, so it feels really good to win it this year. I actually finished eighth and it was Vincent Couturier who beat me last year to get into the top four,” Homer said.

In addition to the satisfaction of winning gold, Homer said that the victory was special because it was on home soil and he defeated two Canadians – Team USA’s top rivals in the team competition on Saturday – en route to winning gold.

“When I was out there, I was thinking about winning in my own country with a lot of the young people and my coach watching,” Homer said. “Unfortunately, one of my teammates lost to a Canadian\ early on and I felt I had to rectify that situation.”

The win is Homer’s first international gold medal as a senior.  

“I definitely had a rough beginning of the season. The first four competitions I had no results and was getting frustrated,” said Homer who finished 12th at the 2010 Senior World Championships in November, “But then I talked to [2008 Olympic silver medalist] Keeth Smart and he told me not to rush it and relax and that opened up a whole new world for me. After I started to relax, I started to beat very strong opponents and I saw that a lot of people were nervous to fence me and I’m pretty much going upwards now and I’m hoping that I can keep going up now.”

With the World Championships three months away, Homer said his next goal is to win a medal in Catania, Italy.

“I really want a medal. For me to believe that I’m a serious medal contender at the Olympics, I need to make top four at a Grand Prix, World Championships or a World Cup because I need to prove to myself that, at the Olympic Games, I can win a medal,” he said.

Although just 17-years-old, Kiefer entered the Pan Ams as the reigning Pan American Champion and as the #13-ranked women’s foil fencer in the world.

At the conclusion of the pool rounds, Lee was undefeated to enter the draw as the #3 seed in the event behind teammates Doris Willette (Lafayette, Calif.) and Nzingha Prescod (Brooklyn, N.Y.) Nicole Ross (New York City, N.Y.) was seeded sixth.

The strong start meant that Team USA’s top three athletes would be separated in the tables and wouldn’t meet until the semifinals after each earned byes in the table of 32.

In the next two rounds, Kiefer won bouts against Nataly Michel (MEX), 15-6, and Saskia Van Erven Garcia (COL), 15-8, to advance to the semifinals against Prescod while Willette would face Monica Peterson (CAN) on the opposite side of the table.

Kiefer finished the first period with a 6-2 lead, but Prescod came back to tie the bout at 10 late in the third period. With seconds left on the clock, Kiefer was awarded a score, but the call was overturned and the score left at 10 which sent the bout into overtime.

Both athletes pushed the pace in the one-minute period with Kiefer scoring the final touch in the last 30 seconds.

“I think we were both definitely frustrated by that point, but you just have to keep going and know that you’ll get the last one in the end,” Kiefer said.

In the other semifinal, Willette and Peterson were tied at nine before Willette went on a five-touch streak in the third period to win the bout, 15-10, and advance to the finals as Team USA’s third all-American final of the week.

In the gold medal bout, Willette and Kiefer were tied at seven, but Kiefer took the lead on the next touch and held onto her lead to win the bout, 15-11.

“It’s great to have won Pan Ams again,” Kiefer said. “I’ve been working hard all year and knew it would probably come down to me and my teammates in the finals, but I’m always happy when I win.”

Competition continues on Thursday with the men’s team epee and women’s team saber events.

Athletes scheduled to compete for Team USA are as follows:

Men’s Epee
Seth Kelsey (Colorado Springs, Colo.)
Soren Thompson (New York City, N.Y.)
Cody Mattern (Colorado Springs, Colo.)
Ben Bratton (New York City, N.Y.)

Women’s Saber
Mariel Zagunis (Beaverton, Ore.)
Ibtihaj Muhammad (Maplewood, N.J.)
Daria Schneider (New York City, N.Y.)
Dagmara Wozniak (Avenel, N.J.)

Top eight and U.S. results for competition on Wednesday are as follows:

Women’s Individual Foil
1. Lee Kiefer (Lexington, Ky.)
2. Doris Willette (Lafayette, Calif.)

3. Nzingha Prescod (Brooklyn, N.Y.)
3. Monica Peterson (CAN)
5. Alejandra Carbone (ARG)
6. Kelleigh Ryan (CAN)
7. Alanna Goldie (CAN)
8. Saskia Loretta Van Erven Garcia (COL)

9. Nicole Ross (New York City, N.Y.)

Men’s Individual Saber
1. Daryl Homer (New York City, N.Y.)

2. Vincent Couturier (CAN)
3. Renzo Agresta (BRA)
3. Philippe (CAN)
5. Hernan Jansen (VEN)
6. James Williams (New York City, N.Y.)
7. Tim Morehouse (New York City, N.Y.)
8. Max Stearns (CAN)

9. Ben Igoe (Staten Island, N.Y.)

Tag(s): News  Daryl Homer  Lee Kiefer