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Gold and Silver for Team USA

03/03/2013, 11:00pm CST
By Nicole Jomantas

Mariel Zagunis and Ibtihaj Muhammad Finish 1-2 at the Bologna Saber World Cup

Ibtihaj Muhammad and Mariel Zagunis won silver and gold at the Bologna World Cup. Photo credit: Augusto Bizzi.

(Colorado Springs, Colo.) – For two-time Olympic Champion Mariel Zagunis (Beaverton, Ore.), Saturday’s competition at the Bologna Saber World Cup in Italy was an opportunity to remind the fencing community of why she is one of the best women’s saber fencers in the world.

For Zagunis’s teammate, Ibtihaj Muhammad (Maplewood, N.J.), the fourth senior international event of the year was a chance to show that she’s one of the front-runners to qualify for the 2016 Olympic Games where she hopes to become the first U.S. woman in any sport to compete at the Games in a hijab.

Each athlete made her point when Zagunis and Muhammad won gold and silver, respectively, on Saturday.

Muhammad, who fell just outside the top-16 seeds, fenced in the pools and preliminary rounds for the first time this season on Friday.

After a 5-1 result in the pools, Muhammad defeated Katherine Kempe (GBR), 15-9, in the preliminary table of 128 to advance to the table of 64 on Saturday as the 35th seed.

Zagunis and 2012 Olympian Dagmara Wozniak (Avenel, N.J.) were both exempt from the pools and were seeded second and eighth in the table of 64, respectively.

Zagunis cruised through her first three bouts of the day where she gave up no more than six touches per bout in victories over Claudia Di Martino (ITA), Sunil Bunyatova (AZE) and Rajin Lee (KOR) to qualify for the quarter-finals.

Muhammad edged Anna Limbach (GER), 15-14, in the table of 64. In her next bout, Muhammad faced five-time Senior World Champion and 2012 Olympic silver medalist Sofiya Velikaya (RUS). A former #1-ranked fencer in the world, Velikaya has not lost a bout to an American whose last name isn’t Zagunis since 2009.

Muhammad ended that streak in the table of 32, however, with a 15-11 victory for one of Muhammad’s biggest career wins.

After a 15-13 win over Russian Anna Illarionova (RUS), Muhammad advanced to the quarter-finals against Sabina Mikina (AZE). Although the two have fenced often in team competitions – including the 2011 Senior World Team Championships where Team USA won bronze over Azerbaijan – this would be their first bout in an individual event. Muhammad won the bout, 15-13, to advance to her first individual Senior World Cup semifinal.

Zagunis won her quarter-final bout against five-time Senior World medalist Gioia Marzocca (ITA), 15-11.

In the semifinals, Zagunis continued her career-long undefeated streak against two-time Senior World medalist Yuliya Gavrilova (RUS) with a 15-11 win.

With her first-ever individual World Cup medal secured, Muhammad defeated seven-time Senior World medalist Ilaria Bianco (ITA), 15-13, in the semis.

In a rematch of their table of 16 bout in Gent, Belgium last week, Zagunis defeated her teammate in the gold medal final, 15-9.

The win is Zagunis’s second straight gold medal after taking the title in Gent and her third individual medal out of four events so far this season.

For Muhammad, who finished sixth at this tournament in 2012, this is the first individual Senior World Cup medal for the two-time Senior World Team medalist and four-time Pan Am Team Champion.

Wozniak, who won bronzes with Zagunis and Muhammad at the Senior World Team Championships in 2011 and 2012, finished 20th.

Wozniak defeated Bianca Pascu (ROU), 15-12, in her first round, but lost to two-time Senior World Team medalist Cecilia Berder (FRA), 15-12, in the table of 32.

A week after being named to the Junior World Team, 17-year-olds Adrienne Jarocki (Middle Village, N.Y.) and Sage Palmedo (Portland, Ore.) both advanced to the table of 64.

Jarocki went undefeated in the pools on Friday and entered the table of 64 as the 21st seed. She finished 38th after a 15-10 loss to Paola Guarneri (ITA) on Saturday.

Palmedo, who placed in the top-32 at the last three senior international events, finished the pools with a 3-2 record and defeated Beline Boulay (FRA), 15-13, in the preliminary table of 64 on Friday. She drew eventual bronze medalist Yuliya Gavrilova (RUS) in her opening bout on Saturday, but lost the bout to the two-time Senior World medalist, 15-13, and finished 56th.

Click here to view complete results.

Top eight and U.S. results are as follows, including athletes who placed outside the top 64 on Friday:

Bologna Individual Saber World Cup
1. Mariel Zagunis (Beaverton, Ore.)
2. Ibtihaj Muhammad (Maplewood, N.J.)

3. Ilaria Bianco (ITA)
3. Yuliya Gavrilova (RUS)
5. Gioia Marzocca (ITA)
6. Livia Stagni (ITA)
7. Sabina Mikina (AZE)
8. Viktoriya Kovaleva (RUS)

20. Dagmara Wozniak (Avenel, N.J.)
38. Adrienne Jarocki (Middle Village, N.Y.)
56. Sage Palmedo (Portland, Ore.)
69. Monica Aksamit (Matawan, N.J.)
72. Daria Schneider (New York City, N.Y.)
78. Aziza Hassan (Brooklyn, N.Y.)
82. Kamali Thmpson (Teaneck, N.J.)
107. Faizah Muhammad (Maplewood, N.J.)

Tag(s): News  Ibtihaj Muhammad