skip navigation

U.S. Athletes Earn Top World Rankings

03/24/2011, 8:29am CDT
By No Author

Mariel Zagunis

(Colorado Springs, Colo.) – With just over a month remaining until the Olympic qualification process begins on April 28, Team USA’s athletes have shown early success on the World Cup and Grand Prix circuit and staked their claims on top world rankings in each of the three weapons.

Twenty-one-year-old Miles Chamley-Watson (Philadelphia, Pa.) recently made history when he ascended the world ranking list in the foil where he is ranked #3 internationally – the highest ranking for a U.S. man ever in the weapon.

“It feels awesome to be the first U.S foil fencer to earn a #3 world ranking,” Chamley-Watson said. “Even though it is a great accomplishment, I know that I still have two more places to go. I will not be fully satisfied unless I am #1 in the world. I know that I can do it and I know that work will get me there.”

At just 20-years-old, Chamley-Watson placed fifth at his second World Championships in November and is a candidate for podium finishes at both the 2011 Worlds and 2012 Olympic Games, but Chamley-Watson first has his eyes on returning to the podium on the World Cup circuit – the series of events that will play a key role in the Olympic qualifying process that begins in May.

“My goals for the remainder of the season are to compete at the highest level possible,” he said. “I want to compete with the two fencers that are in front of me. I want to win some World Cups. I know I can, I just need to fence at my best. I want to also get a medal in one of the World Cups. I feel like we are close.”

Chamley-Watson also continues to have his eyes on the ultimate goal – qualifying for his first Olympic Team in 2012 and earning a trip to the podium.

“I want to work as hard as I can to make the Olympics and put myself in striking distance to get the USA a medal. The next year will test not only my body, but also my mind. It is going to be a very exciting year but also a very important year. I think the most important year of my life,” he said.

Mauro Hamza (Pearland, Texas), director of the U.S. Foil Team, said future looks bright for Team USA.

“As we approaching the Olympic season, the U.S. Foil Team is looking very promising. Miles is ranked #3 in the world which is a milestone that should be recognized both today and in the future,” Hamza said. “Gerek Meinhardt is ranked in the top 16 now, too, and we have a very talented overall team. I believe in Team USA and know that, with hard work, the whole team will achieve greatness.”

A bronze medalist at the 2010 Senior Worlds and 2008 Olympian, 20-year-old Gerek Meinhardt (San Francisco, Calif.) took time off after the Worlds in November to rehabilitate an injury and did not compete in the first leg of the 2011 World Cup series, but has maintained a #12 ranking in the world. Sixteen-year-old Alexander Massialas (San Francisco, Calif.) also has shown that he can compete with the best seniors in the world as he has moved up to #18 and recently defeated four-time World Champion Peter Joppich (GER) at the Venice Grand Prix last month.

As a team, the U.S. men’s foil squad is ranked #7 in the world after a fifth-place finish at the Bonn World Cup last weekend and is the top-ranked team in the Pan American region.

The men’s epee team also has had success this season with an ascent to the #3 ranking in the world behind Hungary and France.

After winning the silver medal at the 2010 Worlds – the first podium finish for a U.S. men’s epee team – Team USA avenged their World final loss with a victory over France at the Tallinn World Cup three weeks ago.

“Taking silver at the 2010 World Championships and then confirming that result four months later in Tallinn shows that the Worlds was not just a one-time result,” said U.S. Men’s Epee Team Director Sebastien Dos Santos (Portland, Ore.) “The team feels more and more confident in its strength and its strategies. I also feel that the team wants to win and is hungry about it. We also need to be aware that in men's epee, the field is very deep and there are many other strong teams out there. The U.S. team results will certainly have some ups and downs and the team has to be ready to ride those ups and downs.”

Although the men’s epee team event will not be contested at the 2012 Olympic Games, the men are focused on the potential for a second podium finish at the Worlds in Catania, Italy in November as well as the potential to continue their success into the 2016 Games in Rio.

Seth Kelsey

“We work great together as a team,” said two-time Olympian Seth Kelsey (Colorado Springs, Colo.) “We are all skilled fencers but a lot of teams have that. I think something unique that we have is trust. None of else feel like we have to do everything. We all share the work and fence the team matches as an actual team. It is very frustrating to be so highly ranked the year before the first Olympics and to not have a team event in London, but I think we are fortunate to be in a sport where we can continue to get better through our thirties. I hope everyone continues to train through the games in Rio because I think we have a real shot at bringing home a gold medal.”

Individually, Kelsey placed seventh at the 2010 Worlds and is currently ranked #6 in the world rankings.

“It feels good, but the rankings are always changing,” Kelsey said. “I know that I have to fight really hard to keep it. I hope I continue to fence like I have in the last year.”

One of the best-known faces in the sport, two-time Olympic Champion Mariel Zagunis (Beaverton, Ore.) continues to have a tight grip on her #1 world ranking in women’s saber – a position she has held since 2009.

“Mariel’s very dedicated to the sport. She takes it very seriously,” said U.S. Women’s Saber Team Director Ed Korfanty (Portland, Ore.) “I’m a pretty lucky coach because I don’t have to push her. I have to stop her sometimes. And she’s always trying to prepare for the competition at her best.”

After winning her second individual Senior World title in November, Zagunis began the season with a gold medal at the Orleans Grand Prix in February and added a second podium finish with a bronze at the Istanbul World Cup.

“My results this season so far have been pretty good. I started off winning the first tournament of the season, the Grand Prix in Orleans, France which was a great start,” Zagunis said. “I feel like I could have performed better at the second two in London and Istanbul, but third and ninth are also good results! I'm looking at it in the grand scheme of things – you can't win them all and the season is long so I am just going to take it one tournament at a time.”

Although she is likely the most scouted women’s fencer in the world, Zagunis maintains her goal is to win a third straight World title in Catania.

“I know there will be a lot of pressure on me in Catania this year because I've won Worlds the last two years,” she said. “I am planning on being as well prepared physically and mentally as I have been in the past so I can perform my best on that day. Of course I have high expectations for myself and my goal is to win a third time in a row.”

A veteran of the international scene at just 26-years-old, Zagunis won her first Olympic title in Athens as a 19-year-old who was originally scheduled to be a replacement athlete on the team.

“Some people would argue that it is easy to get to the top, but much harder to stay there. I totally agree with this. If you're a younger, less experienced or lower ranked fencer, you have nothing to lose going up against a top ranked opponent and so you fence with no fear,” Zagunis said. “That being said, I feel like people always fence extra hard against me because everyone wants to beat one of the best or upset the #1 person. I've dealt with this for many years now and have learned that I have to be ready to fence every bout and not underestimate anyone. Other than that, I feel like I don't have problems dealing with any other expectations or given pressures because I fence every tournament with a passion to win, and I would do that regardless of my ranking.”

Zagunis and her U.S. teammates have also had success in the team event, placing fourth at the 2010 World Championships and upsetting Ukraine – the 2008 Olympic Champions – en route to a bronze medal finish at the Istanbul World Cup in Turkey two weeks ago to maintain a #4 ranking in the world.

“I am very proud of the way my team and I performed against Ukraine. They’re one of the best and most consistent teams, and they are tough for anyone to beat. But my teammates and I, we all had an incredible level of focus going into that match and we fenced them so well,” Zagunis said. “We beat them by a big margin (45-29) which felt incredible! This match left us with some confidence that I'm hoping we can use in the next team events when we go against tough opponents.” 

Zagunis’s teammates Ibtihaj Muhammad (Maplewood, N.J.) and Dagmara Wozniak (Avenel, N.J.) also have earned top-20 rankings with Muhammad ranked #13 and Wozniak ranked #19.

Like the men’s epee team event, the women’s saber will be contested in London only on an individual basis, but Coach Korfanty remains confident that Team USA will qualify the maximum allotment of two individual fencers.

“It’s a different qualification process since there’s no team event, but we’re working on building the team for Rio and I think we can definitely qualify two individually for London. Mariel’s #1. Ibti is #13 right now. Dagmara is #19, but one close competition and they can all change positions,” he said.

The road to London officially begins on April 29 with the first weekend of men’s World Cup and Grand Prix tournaments being held in Germany (epee), Japan (foil) and Greece (saber) and will conclude on May 31, 2012. For more information on selection criteria for the 2012 Olympic Games, click here

Tag(s): News