skip navigation

Prescod, Kiefer and Lu Become First Americans to Go 1-2-3 at Junior Worlds

04/01/2011, 12:00pm CDT
By Nicole Jomantas

(Amman, Jordan) – A trio of juniors made history for both themselves and Team USA on Friday when they earned the top three spots on the podium at the Junior World Championships in Jordan – the first time a U.S. Team has accomplished the feat in the history of the sport.

The wins also mark the first time any single country has earned the top three medals at a Junior Worlds since Russia did so in the women's foil in 1974.

Competing in the women’s foil, the trio holds six individual Cadet World medals among them, but this also is the first time on any step of the Junior World podium for Nzingha Prescod (Brooklyn, N.Y.), Lee Kiefer (Lexington, Ky.) and Margaret Lu (Greenwich, Conn.)

Just three days after winning a silver medal at the Cadet Worlds – her fourth podium finish at the event – 16-year-old Kiefer went undefeated in her pools on Friday morning to enter the table of 64 as the #2 seed behind Lu who placed ninth at her third Cadet Worlds.

Prescod also went undefeated, winning six bouts to earn the #4 seed – guaranteeing that the three teammates could not face each other until the semifinals.

In a division of 90 athletes, however, each of the Americans needed to earn wins against top international competitors to have the chance to qualify for the semifinals.

Each athlete had a bye into the table of 64 and would need four wins to qualify for the semifinals.

Prescod’s opening bout was a 15-7 win against Mirela Ifrim (ROU) which she followed with a table of 64 bout against Mona Shaito (Garland, Texas) who competed for Team USA at the Youth Olympic Games in 2010. Prescod won the bout, 15-7.

In the table of 16, Prescod fenced Min-Jeong Kim (KOR) where the two were tied at 10 before Prescod pulled ahead to earn the win, 15-12. She attributed her success in that match to competing on the senior World Cup Circuit this season in which she has earned finishes in the top-16.

“Fencing seniors definitely helped today,” she said. “In seniors, everything is so stressful and every single touch counts and you always have to be on and they’re all so good that it really prepared me for when I struggled with the Korean.”

In the quarter-finals, Prescod defeated Leyla Pirieva (RUS), 15-7, as the first of the Americans to qualify for the podium.

“It was a little tough in the beginning. She was a little nervous in the 32 and the 16, but once she got to the eight, she felt like it was her world and she was ok,” said Prescod’s coach Buckie Leach (New York City, N.Y.)

Meanwhile, Kiefer and Lu also had won their first three direct elimination bouts and all three fencers were competing simultaneously in the quarters.

Kiefer led two-time Junior World medalist Alice Volpi (ITA) by 12-8, but Volpi came back to tie the score at 14.

When Kiefer earned the last touch, she jumped in the air and screamed in celebration as she had secured a berth in the semifinals and a place on the podium. The win also meant that the Italians, a dominant force in foil, would be off the podium for the just the second time in 10 years.

“That was just awesome. Italy has such a great team and any time you can win a bout like that you’re always gonna be so excited,” Kiefer said afterwards.

Lu earned the final slot, defeating Zuzanna Sobczak (POL) to set up a semifinal between her and Prescod while Kiefer would face Ysora Thibus (FRA) who placed sixth in 2010.

Kiefer soon found herself down, 4-1, after the first period against Thibus.

“Her timing was a problem. Lee was fencing with the French’s timing, not her timing. So during the break I told her ‘Come on. You’re giving her the timing she likes. Fence on your timing,’” said Kiefer’s coach Khazbak Amgad (Lexington, Ky.)

With that advice, Kiefer reeled off eight unanswered touches to take the lead, 9-5, after the second period and win the bout, 15-8.

In the other semifinal, Prescod took an early lead against Lu and won the bout, 15-8.

“It was frustrating because we fence all the time. It’s always almost more stressful fencing someone from either the U.S. or your club than fencing anyone else,” Prescod said.

As both athletes were members of Team USA, the two were without personal coaches for the bout.

“It’s tough. It’s nerve wracking to not be out there, but a lot of times the coaches will sit next to each other and we’ll talk, so that help the tension a bit,” Leach said.

The loss gave Lu her first bronze medal at the Junior Worlds after placing in the top-16 in 2010 and earning two top-16 Cadet World finishes.

“It’s absolutely amazing,” Lu said of her bronze medal win. “It hasn’t sunk in yet, but it’s starting to.”

Lu’s coach, Sean McClain (New York City, N.Y.) said that Lu had one of the best days of her young career.

“This is the best I’ve seen her fence,” McLain said. “This is a tournament where she fenced well in every single bout, even the bout she lost.”

In the final, Prescod and Lee would find themselves in their second World final after Prescod defeated Lee at the 2009 Cadet Worlds.

This time, Prescod led throughout the bout to earn the win again, 15-11.

“It’s been so long since I won Cadets and it just feels great to finally win again and be back up there,” Prescod said.  

After winning the silver Kiefer said she had multiple emotions.

“I’ve got mixed feelings,” she said. “It’s great to have a medal, but I obviously really wanted to win gold.”

The women will have another chance at gold on Tuesday when they attempt to reclaim the team title they won in 2009 after a fourth-place finish in 2010.

“I think we can win gold. The way we have been fencing and the level of USA Fencing has significantly improved. We made history today and I have high expectations for the team event, but I just have to keep in mind that it’s all about the fencing and, as we all do our part, we should come home with the gold,” Lu said.

In the junior men’s saber competition, Evan Prochniak (Hudson, N.H.) earned the top finish for the Americans with an 11th place result at his second Junior World Championships.

Prochniak was the sixth seed in the direct elimination table after winning all five of his pool bouts.

Prochniak and teammates Sean Buckley (Secaucus, N.J.) and Rhys Douglas (Apache Junction, Ariz.) each earned byes into the table of 64.

Prochniak opened with a 15-12 win over Azar Taghiyev (AZE) and a solid performance against Xiaohao Deng (CHN) whom Prochniak defeated, 15-9.

In the table of 16, however, he fell to Richard Hubers (GER), 15-7 and placed 11th overall.

With the score tied at 13, Buckley pulled ahead of Dragos SIrbu (ROU) to win the bout, 15-13, but lost his table of 32 bout to eventual silver medalist Trofim Velkiy (RUS), 15-12. Buckley finished 20th at his first Junior Worlds.

First-time Junior World Team member Douglas lost in the table of 64 to Artsiom Karabinkski (BLR)  to finish 46th.

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

The following athletes will represent Team USA:

Junior Women’s Saber
Lian Osier (Battle Ground, Wash.)
Skyla Powers (Atlanta, Ga.)
Francesca Russo (Wayne, N.J.)

Junior Men’s Epee
James Kaull (Washington, D.C.)
Michael Raynis (Chatsworth, Calif.)
Edward Kelley (San Antonio, Texas

Top eight and U.S. results are as follows:

Junior Women’s Foil
1 Nzingha Prescod (Brooklyn, N.Y.)
2. Lee Kiefer (Lexington, Ky.)
3. Margaret Lu (Greenwich, Conn.)
3. Ysora Thibus (FRA)
5. Anita Blaze (FRA)
6. Alice Volpi (ITA)
7. Keyla Pirieva (RUS)
8. Zuzanna Sobczak (POL)

Junior Men’s Saber
1. Matyas Szabo (GER)
2. Trofim Velkiy (RUS)
3. Maximilian Kindler (GER)
3. Nikoasz Iliasz (HUN)
5. Alvaro Lopez Mendez (ESP)
6. Richard Huebers (GER)
7. Andras Szatmari (HUN)
8. Sandro Bazadze (GEO)

11. Evan Prochniak (Hudson, N.H.)
20. Sean Buckley (Secaucus, N.J.)

44. Rhys Douglas (Apache Junction, Ariz.)


Tag(s): News  Lee Kiefer  Nzingha Prescod  Margaret Lu