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U.S. Men’s Foil Team Earns First Ever Senior World Silver Medal, Becomes World No. 1

08/12/2013, 10:15pm CDT
By Nicole Jomantas

(Budapest, Hungary) – Once the U.S. Men’s Foil Team found the podium this season, the athletes vowed never to give it up.

After falling short of a medal at the London Olympic Games with a fourth place finish, Gerek Meinhardt (San Francisco, Calif.), Race Imboden (Brooklyn, N.Y.), Miles Chamley-Watson (Philadelphia, Pa. / New York City, N.Y.) and Alexander Massialas (San Francisco, Calif.) all committed to fence through the Rio Games in pursuit of becoming the first U.S. Men’s Foil Team to win an Olympic medal.

Team USA began the season with a gold at the Paris World Cup – the first ever World Cup team medal for the squad – and followed with three silvers in their remaining appearances on the circuit.

And the biggest step of that journey would be standing on the podium at the Senior World Championships.

Chamley-Watson did it first when he took gold in the individual competition on Friday where he became the first U.S. man to win an individual Senior World title.

With one piece of history made, Team USA set about rewriting more of the books on Monday.

“I know we said we were young in London and we’re still young now, but a year makes an amazing difference,” said Meinhardt who, at 23-years-old, has already competed on two Olympic Teams. “We all had great individual seasons. Miles won his individual event a couple days ago and I think we all have a lot more confidence than we did in London. A year’s a long time and we all have another full senior season under our belts so I think a lot of it is just believing we could do it.  After being in the gold medal final every World Cup this year in team, I think that, even when we got down, we knew that we could, and should, be up there.”

First up: Canada.

Following a bye into the table of 16 as the #2-ranked team in the world (another first), Team USA took to the strip in a rematch of this summer’s Pan Am final.

The Americans won the match with little fanfare and a 45-25 score, but there was a casualty to the bout: Chamley-Watson wouldn’t fence again after the Canadian match due to an injury sustained in the first bout.

“I strained my Achilles tendon. The trainer told me not to fence because I could tear it and I’d be out for something like nine months. I fenced one bout against Canada and had to pull out, but I’m really happy that we all came together,” Chamley-Watson said.

The bad news, of course, is that the reduction to three athletes in the team event meant no substitutions for the remaining matches of the day.

But Team USA has one of the deepest men’s foil squads in the world and the remaining three athletes had combined for 10 World Cup and Grand Prix wins this season. The withdrawal would be taxing, but wouldn’t count them out for a medal.  

In the quarter-finals, Team USA fenced China – a team that won Senior Worlds in 2010. Anchored by the Sheng Lei, the Olympic Champion in the individual event, China fell to the Americans, 45-35. In addition to Massialas’s win over Lei, 5-1, in the anchor leg, Meinhardt had a chance to avenge his 15-14 loss in the individual round with a 5-1 win over Lei in the team competition.

In the semifinals, Team USA met France. Although the Americans won all of their team matches against France this season – including one in Paris – and defeated France in the quarter-finals of the London Games, this match would be far from easy.

In addition to the team losses, Massialas had dispatched Erwan Le Pechoux, 15-9, and Imboden defeated Jeremy Cadot, 15-7, in the individual rounds.

The French were determined to have an upset and they looked to be headed when the French Team built a 20-9 lead after the fourth bout. By the seventh bout, the Americans had reduced the gap to a six-touch deficit, but it was Meinhardt who put Team USA back in the game when he went on an 11-2 scoring run against Cadot to give Team USA a 35-32 lead.

“I just take it one touch at a time. We were down by a lot, so I had a lot of room to work with. We had a lot of motivation. We’d done well with France at the Olympics last year and all season this year, so I knew we could do it. I think we started out a little bit flat in some of our matches and got down, but we were able to bring it back,” said Meinhardt who achieved a nearly identical feat when he was brought in as the reserve in London to outscore France 11-1 and help Team USA to its quarter-final win last year.  

Imboden followed with a 5-0 shutout of Enzo Lefort in the eighth bout and Massialas brought the match home when he defeated Le Pechoux, 5-3, to give Team USA a 45-35 victory and a guaranteed medal.

“We just tried to get amped. In those bouts, sometimes it’s one of those things where we just start kind of flat. I had a tough bout with Le Pechoux and I got really angry and Gerek came out and got really amped and went 11-2,” Imboden said. “You see somebody do that and you know you have to come in and hold your own. I came in and closed it down and then Alex came and did his job. If that happens, you’re never going to lose.”

After Italy – the reigning Olympic Champions – defeated Russia, 45-44, in the other semifinal, the stage was set for a World Championship final between the two top-ranked Teams in the world.

In addition to being a dominant force in men’s team foil, Italy’s lineup boasts “the Andreas” – Cassara and Baldini – a pair of fencers who have each won both individual and team Senior World titles as well as a 2012 Olympic Team gold for Baldini and two Olympic team golds for Cassara.

Combined with Valerio Aspromonte who won bronze on Friday, the Italian lineup would be a forced to be reckoned with.

Italy led from the start and, although Meinhardt put up a 3-1 win over Baldini in the fifth bout, the Italians had built a 40-25 lead over the Americans. Massialas outscored Baldini, 8-3, but Italy won the match and the gold, 45-33.

“It’s a great feeling to win silver. We wish we could have gone out there and gotten the gold, but, at the end of the day, if we got the silver, that’s not too bad either. And the men’s foil’s first World Championship medal. I think we all feel good today, but we’re hungry for more in the coming years,” Massialas said.

Although Team USA lost the final match, the squad’s sixth podium finish of the season allowed the Americans to finish the season as the world #1.

“We’ve accomplished so much. I’ve said it before, but this is our time. We’re the next generation. We’re the guys coming up. We had a season where we were in the finals at every World Cup and to cap it off and prove that we could do it at World Champs when we were down and came back,” Imboden said. “We weren’t always fencing our best [today]. Gerek fenced really well in some bouts. Other people fenced really well in others. We’re really coming together as a team and it shows. I think having all four of us in the top 10 now and Miles becoming World Champion makes us a force to be reckoned with and that’s amazing to be a part of.”

While the records are being updated, Chamley-Watson became the first U.S. men’s fencer ever to earn both an individual and team Senior World medal.

“I’m proud of the team. They fenced really well. I got injured, unfortunately, and didn’t get to do much fencing, but I’m extremely happy we got a medal. Yeah, a double gold would have been sweeter, but silver’s not too bad,” Chamley-Watson laughed.

Looking ahead to next season, Massialas said they want to come back and win gold next year. While he admitted thing will only get harder, Massialas said Team USA is up for the challenge.  

“It just puts a little bit bigger of a target on our backs. After this result, we’re going to be #1 in the world and everyone’s going to be gunning for us. We’re not underdogs anymore,” Massialas said. “This season we made a huge leap by making every final of every team event. And now people are going to be looking at us. People are going to be studying us. They’ll be doing what we used to do to move up this far. So we just have to be ready for it and work on getting better.”

For complete results, visit

Top eight results are as follows:

Men’s Team Foil
1. Italy
2. USA
3. France
4. Russia
5. Germany
6. Ukraine
7. China
8. Great Britain

Tag(s): News  Race Imboden  Alexander Massialas  Gerek Meinhardt  Miles Chamley-Watson