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U.S. Men’s Foil Team Defeats Italy to Win Junior World Gold, Women’s Epee Places Fifth

04/06/2011, 11:31am CDT
By No Author

(Amman, Jordan) – During the past four years, a familiar pattern has occurred. Team USA and Italy have competed against each other in the men’s foil team final of the Junior World Championships every year since 2008 and the rivalry has come to be one of the best in junior fencing.

On the last day of a Junior Worlds filled with firsts, the U.S. Junior Men’s Foil Team because the first American men’s team to successfully defend a World title at either the junior or senior levels in Jordan.

Led by two members of the squad that won gold in 2010 – David Willette (Lafayette, Calif.) and Alexander Massialas (San Francisco, Calif.) – Team USA defeated Italy for the third time in four years in the finals of the Junior World Championships on Wednesday.

“It’s satisfying, especially since we have had this rivalry for the past four years in a row and it was kind of getting under our skin,” said Willette who is in his final year of junior eligibility. “It’s definitely good to know I went out and did my best for the team in my last year. “

Massialas and Willette joined with Race Imboden (Brooklyn, N.Y.) and Brian Kaneshige (Maplewood, N.J.) to defeat Ukraine, 45-21, in the opening round.

In the quarter-finals, Team USA won its bout against Korea, 45-26.

Team USA’s semifinal with France marked the first time during the day that the Americans trailed a team by as much as eight touches during the middle of a hard-fought bout in which the U.S. squad came back to win, 45-43.

“We had that very difficult come from behind match against France where we got ourselves in trouble from the beginning. Then we went back to the hotel before the final, chilled out, talked for a little bit and we said ‘That’s all done. We got out of it. We’ve gotta make sure we start from a strong footing. We don’t want to get ourselves into a hole and have to dig ourselves out of it. We want to stay on top of it and then be able to finish it off,’” said Coach Greg Massialas (San Francisco, Calif.)

In the finals, Team USA trailed Italy going into a critical fifth match between Imboden and Edoardo Luperi (ITA) who had beaten Massialas in the gold medal individual final on Sunday.

Imboden held his own against Luperi, scoring five touches and keeping Team USA within two points of Italy.

“I lost to Edoardo last year at Cadets and I’ve spent some time studying him and I went into the bout ready and just tried to stay relaxed,” Imboden said.

Coach Massialas, a three-time Olympian himself, praised Imboden’s performance after the bout.

“Race really held his own today. He’s a tremendous fighter,” Coach Massialas said.

Willette and Imboden worked to build a lead for Massialas going into the final bout of 40-31.

“There’s never an easy moment in team, ever,” Imboden said. “Even that final bout where we thought we had a big lead. Everyone’s gunning for you all the time.”

While Luperi came within three touches of the win, Massialas held off his opponent to win the bout, 45-42.

“It feels awesome. It’s great to get a gold medal that all of us thoroughly deserved. We put in too much effort to let it go back to Italy,” Alexander Massialas said. “Being the closer’s a lot of pressure, but it’s really very satisfying to know that you’re the one to seal the deal is awesome. There’s all that pressure, but once you do it all that pressure’s released and it just feels awesome.”

The win marked the first Junior World title for Imboden who won bronze at the 2010 Cadet Worlds.

“I think to be on the top of the podium anywhere is great, but to do it at the World Championships is 10 times as exciting and ups the level a lot. Being up there with everybody watching and the cameras flashing is a great experience,” he said.

Kaneshige competed as a cadet in 2010, but the team event was his first foray into Junior World competition.

“It was definitely another animal. There’s a world of difference between cadets and juniors,” said Kaneshige. “Being a part of the team event, the intensity is unmatched. It’s something I’ve never been a part of and to be a part of here was very special.”

The U.S. women’s epee team entered the event on Wednesday on the heels of three podium finishes in 2008, 2009 and 2010.

Kat Holmes (Washington, D.C.) came to the Jordan as the only returning member of the U.S. Team that won a silver medal in the women’s epee team event in 2010.

A 2010 Youth Olympian, Holmes was joined on this year’s squad by three cadet (U17) athletes who are first-time Junior World Team members – Audrey Abend (New York City, N.Y.), Jessie Radanovich (Tollhouse, Calif.) and Anna Van Brummen (Houston, Texas) who placed in the top eight in both the Cadet and individual Junior World Championships.

In the table of 16, Holmes began the bout with a 5-1 lead that Van Brummen and Abend contributed to as the score climbed to 20-9. After Abend secured a comfortable 40-31 lead, Holmes anchored the final match to win the bout, 45-35.

“I think they fenced very well against Finland,” said Maureen Griffen (San Francisco, Calif.). “They have a lot more experience than our team and it’s the first time those three have fenced together. Even Katharine’s only done the one Junior World Team and, other than this, the juniors don’t fence very many team events.”

In the quarter-finals, Team USA drew Israel and Holmes opened with a two-touch lead, 6-4. Israel made a comeback, however, and brought the score to 25-20.

Holmes returned to the strip, but after a minute, the match was called for passivity and Van Brummen returned to pick up one of the lost touches and bring the score to 31-35. Abend exchanged touches with Israel as well, but Team USA was still four touches behind when Holmes returned to the strip to a score of 36-40.

Holmes managed to score five touches, but fell short of the win as Israel took the bout, 45-41.

“I’m happy with how they fenced against the Israeli team. They’re a very strong team with a lot of team depth and their closer has been fencing a lot of senior World Cups and they just have a lot more experience so I think that, given how they did this year, next year we’ll have really good results.”

Top eight results are as follows:

Junior Men’s Team Foil
1. USA
2. Italy
3. France
4. Russia
5. China
6. Korea
7. Germany
8. Greece

Junior Women’s Team Epee
1. China
2. Russia
3. Italy
4. Israel
5. USA
6. Estonia
7. Poland
8. Hungary


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