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U.S. Women’s Saber Team Upsets Ukraine, Places Fourth at World University Games

07/14/2013, 1:30am CDT
By Nicole Jomantas

(Colorado Springs, Colo.) – When the draws came out for the women’s saber team competition at the World University Games in Kazan, Russia, a familiar match-up was set with a new cast of characters.

With a lineup of three fencers competing for the first time in a senior international team event and a fourth who had done so just three times previously, Team USA was seeded ninth in Friday’s event.

The low seed meant they would fence Japan in the table of 16 and Ukraine in the quarter-finals.

As the Americans are ranked third in the world, this is a match-up that wouldn’t ordinarily exist until at least the semifinals of any World Cup.

Eliza Stone (Chicago, Ill. / Princeton), a silver medalist at the Pan Am Championships last month, anchored a team that included her younger sister Gracie Stone (Chicago, Ill. / Princeton), 2009 Cadet World medalist Nicole Glon (State College, Pa. / Penn State) and Kamali Thompson (Teaneck, N.J. / Robert Wood Johnson Medical School) to a 45-32 victory over Japan.

Team USA’s win would pit them against Ukraine – the 2008 Olympic Champions who had one silver or gold at every Senior World Championships since Beijing. Ukraine’s lineup was led by 2012 Olympic bronze medalist Olga Kharlan and included 2013 Junior World Champion Alina Komashchuk and 2008 Olympic Team Champion Galyna Pundyk.

Coach Wes Glon (State College, Pa.) told the team to make the best of its underdog status going into the match.

“Our coach, Wes Glon, came up and told us that this was our chance to have fun, that there was no pressure on us because Ukraine was favored to win the gold,” Eliza Stone said.

Eliza Stone, Nicole Glon and Thompson all earned wins during the first five bouts as Team USA built a 25-17 lead. Ukraine fought back during the later bouts to take a 40-38 lead over the Americans when Eliza Stone and Olga Kharlan took the strip for the anchor bout.

“With that mindset, it went great. We relaxed and out-moved them.  My teammates, Nicole Glon and Kamali Thompson, really fenced fantastically.  By the time it came my turn to close at the end, they had managed to get us within two points of Ukraine,” Eliza Stone said.

With the pressure on, Eliza Stone took the challenge as an opportunity to test her skills against an opponent she could face at the Senior World Championships in Budapest, Hungary next month.   

“I was really excited to fence Olga Kharlan. We decided among ourselves that I would be anchoring, so I knew pretty early on that I would likely be fencing her in the closing match – meaning the cards were set, if we were lucky, for some sort of dramatic USA-Ukrainian fence-off,” Eliza said. “I had never had the opportunity to fence her before, though I had had the chance to watch her fence at plenty of the World Cups this season.  Her style is fantastic, and I just really wanted a chance to go up against her and try my luck.”

Eliza outscored Kharlan, 7-4, to win the match for Team USA, 45-44.

“I just went in to do my best against Kharlan. The bout was pretty intense. I did my best to strategize, my actions worked and when I realized that I'd gotten the last point, everything kind of exploded in my head. Our little crowd of U.S. supporters went crazy, and I just celebrated with my teammates,” she said.

In the semifinals against Italy, Eliza scored 16 of Team USA’s 36 touches going into the final bout against Loreta Gulotta. Although Eliza picked up six touches to Gulotta’s five, Italy won the match, 45-42.

After an upset by Korea in the semifinals, the Russians dropped down to the bronze medal brack to fence Team USA.

Like Ukraine, Russia came with a lineup of athletes who had won both individual and team Senior World medalists: Yuliya Gavrilova, Ekaterina Dyachenko and Dina Galiakbarova – all of whom are expected to fence for Russia at the Senior Worlds.

Eliza won her opening bout against Gavrilova, a two-time medalist at the 2011 Senior Worlds, by a score of 5-4, but the young American team struggled during the remaining bouts with Glon posting the team’s only tie during the fourth bout against Gavrilova. 

Eliza finished the match with a 5-5 tie against Galiakbarova, but the Russians won the match, 45-29.

“I had had little experience fencing the Russian senior team during the World Cups this season.  I got to fence each of them here, though, so I was able to gain some insight about what to do at Worlds in Budapest,” said Eliza who noted that the World University Games served as great preparation for Senior Worlds. “Being able to fence so many of the top senior opponents was a major reason why I attended the World University Games. The fencing is excellent and most of the best fencers in the world were in attendance.  Every single bout I fenced was against someone I had never fenced before and since most of my bouts against the toughest fencers went well, this tournament has also given  me a bit more confidence that I'll be able to handle myself in that playing field in the future.”

Although the World University Games is an event most Americans are unfamiliar with, Eliza raved about her experience in Russia.

“WUGs were amazing. It's just unfortunate that they are not better known in the United States.  The rest of the world seems to hold them in very high esteem, or at least that's the impression I got as one of the attending athletes.  The Opening Ceremonies were the grandest and most elaborate series of events I have seen. I'm told they rivaled the Olympic Opening Ceremonies and Putin was there to open the Games,” Eliza said. “Just being able to attend these Games was something to be grateful for and, in addition to fencing our events, we went and saw the Kazan Kremlin and met dozens of athletes from other countries.  We were part of something unlike anything we'd seen before and we were glad to have had that chance.  Best of all, though, is that we gained good experience that will be sure to come in handy in Budapest!”

In the men’s team foil event, Jerry Chang (Mountain View, Calif. / Harvard), Nobuo Bravo (San Francisco, Calif. / Penn State), Michael Woo (Wayne, N.J. / Harvard) and Max Blitzer (Staten Island, N.Y. / St. John’s) fenced Korea in the table of 16. Bravo outscored Mujun Kim, 10-5, in a crucial fifth bout, but Team USA fell to the Koreans, 45-31, and finished 11th.

Visit for complete results.

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

Women’s Team Saber
1. Korea
2. Italy
3. Russia
4. USA
5. Ukraine
6. Azerbaijan
7. France
8. China

Men’s Team Foil
1. Russisa
2. Italy
3. France
4. Ukraine
5. Great Britain
6. Korea
7. China
8. Mexico

11. USA


Tag(s): News  Eliza Stone