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Mariel Zagunis Places Fifth at Tianjin Saber Grand Prix, Five U.S. Athletes Finish in Top 20

05/22/2011, 12:00pm CDT
By Nicole Jomantas

(Colorado Springs, Colo.) – Mariel Zagunis (Beaverton, Ore.) placed fifth at the Tianjin Grand Prix in China on Sunday as one of four members of Team USA to finish in the top 16 at the Olympic qualifying event.

As the top-ranked saber fencer in the world, Zagunis automatically qualified for the table of 64 alongside teammates Ibtihaj Muhammad (Maplewood, N.J.) and Dagmara Wozniak (Avenel, N.J.) who entered the tournament as the 12th and 15th seeds, respectively.

Daria Schneider (New York City, N.Y.) and Monica Aksamit (Matawan, N.J.) competed in the pools on Saturday where both athletes advanced directly into the table of 64 as Schneider went undefeated and Aksamit won five of six bouts.

All five U.S. team members won their opening bouts to advance to the table of 32.

Zagunis defeated 2009 World medalist Carole Vergne (FRA), 15-8, in the table of 64.

Wozniak defeated Keum-Hwa Kim (KOR), 15-9, and Muhammad won her bout against Zhihong Li (CHN), 15-4. Schneider won her first bout against Sabina Mikina (AZE), 15-10.

In Team USA’s closest match in the table, Aksamit defeated Galyna Pundyk, a member of the Ukrainian Team that won gold at the Beijing Olympic Games, by a single touch – 15-14.

In the table of 32, Zagunis earned a quick win against Shin-Hui Choi (KOR), 15-5, and Schneider won her bout against Sophie Williams (GBR), 15-11, to set up a match in the table of 16 between the 2010 Senior World teammates.

Muhammad and Aksamit also advanced to the table of 16 with wins over a pair of former World medalists. Muhammad defeated 2004 Olympic silver medalist Xue Tan (CHN), 15-10, and Aksamit earned a 15-10 win against 2003 World medalist Aleksandra Socha (POL).

Also competing in the table of 32, Wozniak lost to Stefanie Kubissa (GER), 15-11, and placed 20th overall.

With five U.S. Team members in the top 32, it was nearly inevitable that at least two athletes would meet during the day and the All-American bout occurred between Zagunis and Schneider with Zagunis taking the win, 15-11, in the first international bout between the two since 2009. Zagunis moved on to the quarter-finals and Schneider placed 10th.

Muhammad finished just ahead of Schneider in ninth place after a 15-14 loss to Julia Gavrilova (RUS) who went on to win the silver medal.

Aksamit lost in the table of 16 to Ji-Yeon Kim (KOR), 15-7, to place 14th – her first top-16 finish of the year.

In the table of eight, Zagunis was defeated by eventual champion Min Zhu (CHN), 15-8.

Top-eight and U.S. results are as follows, including athletes who finished outside of the top 64 on Saturday:

Tianjin Saber Grand Prix
1. Min Zhu (CHN)
2. Julia Gavrilova (RUS)
3. Ekaterina Diatchenko (RUS)
3. Olga Kharlan (UKR)
5. Mariel Zagunis (Beaverton, Ore.)
6. Sophia Velikaia (RUS)
7. Ji-Yeon Kim (KOR)
8. Olga Zhovnir (UKR)

9. Ibtihaj Muhammad (Maplewood, N.J.)
10. Daria Schneider (New York City, N.Y.)
14. Monica Aksamit (Matawan, N.J.)
20. Dagmara Wozniak (Avenel, N.J.)
80. Sage Palmedo (Portland, Ore.)
93. Aziza Hassan (Brooklyn, N.Y.)

Tag(s): News  Monica Aksamit  Mariel Zagunis