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Mariel Zagunis Makes Fifth Senior World Individual Medal a Silver in Russia

07/18/2014, 6:30pm CDT
By Nicole Jomantas

Silver medalist Mariel Zagunis (far left) on the podium with Senior World Champion Olga Kharlan (UKR) and bronze medalists Yana Egoain and Ekaterina Dyachenko. Photo Credit: Serge Timacheff / FIE /

(Kazan, Russia) – Two-time Olympic Champion Mariel Zagunis (Beaverton, Ore.) won her fifth individual Senior World medal with a silver on Friday at the Senior World Championships in Kazan.

Zagunis, whose five individual medals came in just seven championships between 2006 and 2014, came into the event as the No. 2-ranked fencer in the world and was determined to return to the podium after a three year hiatus since her last silver medal at the 2011 Senior Worlds.

After earning a bye into today’s table of 64 due to her No. 2 world ranking, Zagunis defeated Hin Wai Lam (HKG), 15-4, in the table of 64 and Kata Varhelyi (HUN), 15-7, in the 32.

Zagunis won her next two bouts by 15-11 scores over two-time Senior World medalist Cecilia Berder (FRA) and 2003 Senior World medalist Aleksandra Socha (POL) to qualify for the semifinals.

The women’s saber semis were held after Opening Ceremony as the first bouts of the evening at the Kazan Tennis Academy and Zagunis drew 20-year-old Russian Yana Egorian in front of a crowd that came out in force to support the host team.

“Based on the Russian contingent that was in Budapest last year, the crowd was something I was definitely prepared for, whether or not I was going against a Russian. You could hear them all day being really enthusiastic for fencers on other strips. So I knew the semifinal was going to be really tough to concentrate in because of all the cheering for her,” Zagunis said. “So when they were saying “Russia!’ I was just imagining that they were chanting ‘Mariel!’ instead and that helped me kind of focus and keep my motivation up and not be bothered by it much.”

Although Egorian held a 8-7 lead at the end of the first period, Zagunis regained the lead at 10-9 and never looked back as she went on to win the bout, 15-12.

The gold medal final would not only be a battle between the top two fencers in the world – Zagunis and 2013 Senior World Champion Olga Kharlan (UKR) – but it was the third gold medal final between the two fencers out of the last five Senior World Championships with Zagunis winning gold after their last two meetings in 2009 and 2010.

Zagunis held an 8-6 lead at the break, but Kharlan had scored five of the next seven touches to be up by two when she slipped during a retreat and fell off the side of the strip. After a brief injury timeout for Kharlan, Zagunis scored the next touch to tie the bout.

Kharlan responded with three straight touches and gave up just one to Zagunis before going on to take the win and the gold with a 15-12 victory.

“If you look at the competition as a whole, that’s what it should have come down to – No. 1 and No. 2 going at it for a gold medal. She and I were 1-1 this season so I felt pretty confident going into that match and I knew she was going to be a really tough competitor so I was happy to have made it to the gold medal round,” Zagunis said. “I wish the bout could have been a little bit better and I could have pulled out a win, but, then again, I am happy to be back on the podium. Kharlan is such a great competitor and she just fenced better than me tonight.”

When asked about looking back at her success at the Senior World Championships, Zagunis said she thinks less about the history she makes with her results and more about each individual competition.  

“I take it one tournament by one tournament. I just try to focus on fencing well. You don’t want to think about the numbers because it could be the first, it could be the seventh. To have it be the fifth medal and having won my first one eight years ago, I think that’s a pretty good track record,” Zagunis said.

While she may not think about historical consequence, Zagunis is now focused on her next goal – a trip to the finals in the team event on Monday when she’ll fence with Dagmara Wozniak (Avenel, N.J.), Eliza Stone (Chicago, Ill.) and Ibtihaj Muhammad (Maplewood, N.J.)

Together the four won bronze in 2013 and Zagunis took two more bronzes at the Senior Worlds with Wozniak and Muhammad in 2011 and 2012.

Team USA won gold earlier this season in Antalya, Turkey and Zagunis’s goal is to bring home the squad’s first team title at this event since 2005.

“I’m really looking forward to fencing the team event with these girls. We’ve had a really great season. A couple of really good results and our not-so-good results were near misses to make the podium or make the gold medal round,” Zagunis said. “So I think we’re going to come out swinging and come out motivated. We all worked really hard at the training camp before this competition and as a team all season. I’m really looking forward to fencing well and getting past that third place and getting into the gold medal round on Monday.”

Both Wozniak and Stone earned career-best individual Senior World finishes on Friday.

Wozniak got off to a strong start with a 15-8 win over Fei Li (CHN) in the table of 64 and a 15-5 victory against Stefanie Kubissa (GER) in the 32.

Wozniak controlled her table of 16 bout against Malgorzata Kozaczuk (POL) as well where she followed an 8-5 lead in the first period by giving up just four more touches to take a 15-9 victory.

In the quarter-finals, Wozniak was dominant again with an 11-7 lead against Ekaterina Dyachenko (RUS) – a silver medalist in both the individual and team events at the 2013 Senior Worlds. Dyachenko couldn’t be stopped as she scored eight touches to close the bout out, 15-13, to secure a fifth career Senior World medal.

Wozniak, who also fenced in the quarters at the 2012 Olympic Games, placed sixth overall.

Stone placed 10th in her second Senior World outing. After a 15-12 win against Sabina Mikina (AZE) and a 15-10 win in the 32 over Rossy Felix Lara (DOM), Stone faced Socha for a chance to take on Zagunis in the quarters. Stone held a one-touch lead at the break at 8-7, but Socha controlled the second period and won the bout, 15-11.

Although Muhammad came into the Senior Worlds with a pair of bronze medals to her credit this season after wins at the Moscow Grand Prix and Pan American Championships, she fell short in Kazan after a loss in the table of 64. Muhammad trailed Karen Ngai Hing Chang (HKG) early in the bout and couldn’t make up ground as Chang took the win, 15-7. The loss left Muhammad with a 35th place finish.

In the men’s event, London Olympian Daryl Homer (Bronx, N.Y.) and Jeff Spear (Wynantskill, N.Y.) each advanced to the table of 32.

Homer, who was exempt from the pools and preliminary rounds on Tuesday, defeated Shaul Gordon (CAN), a two-time NCAA All-American, 15-11, in his table of 64 bout.

Homer dominated the first half of his semifinal bout against Alin Badea (ROU) as he built an 8-1 lead over the 2013 Senior World team silver medalist. Midway through the second period, however, Badea had cut Homer’s lead to 12-8. Badea went on to tie the bout at 12 and take the win, 15-13. Homer finished 19th overall.

Seeded 26th, Spear won his table of 64 bout over Ziad Elsissy (EGY), 15-11. Spear’s low seed pitted him against 2012 Olympic silver medalist Diego Occhiuzzi (ITA). Undaunted by his opponent’s credentials, Spear methodically picked off touches to take an 8-6 lead at the break. Occhiuzzi came back in the second half and was poised to close out the bout at 14-12 before Spear scored twice for a tie at 14. Occhiuzzi took the next touch to finish the bout, 15-14. Spear finished 26th at his second Senior Worlds.

Also fencing at his second Senior Worlds, three-time Junior World medalist Eli Dershwitz (Sherborn, Mass.) led Matyas Szabo (GER), 8-4, at the break. Szabo adjusted during the break, however, and outscored Dershwitz, 10-3, for a 14-11 lead. Dershwitz picked up three touches to tie the bout at 14, but Szabo scored the final touch for the win.

Four-time Senior World Team member Ben Igoe (Staten Island, N.Y.) drew Nikolay Kovalev (RUS) in the table of 64, but lost the bout, 15-6, and ended the day in 50th place.

The U.S. Men’s Saber Team will return to competition on Monday when Homer, Spear, Dershwitz and 2014 Junior World team medalist Andrew Mackiewicz (Westwood, Mass.) compete in the team event.

On Saturday, the individual competition continues with the men’s and women’s foil events.

The following athletes will take the strip for Team USA:

  • Miles Chamley-Watson (New York City, N.Y.), 2012 Olympian and 2013 Senior World Champion
  • Gerek Meinhardt (San Francisco, Calif.), 2012 Olympian and two-time Senior World medalist
  • Alexander Massialas (San Francisco, Calif.), 2012 Olympian and 2013 Senior World team silver medalist
  • Race Imboden (Brooklyn, N.Y.), 2012 Olympian and 2013 Senior World team silver medalist
  • Lee Kiefer (Lexington, Ky.), 2012 Olympian and 2011 Senior World bronze medalist
  • Nzingha Prescod (Brooklyn, N.Y.), 2012 Olympian and two-time Grand Prix medalist
  • Nicole Ross (New York City, N.Y.), 2009 Junior World Team Champion
  • Margaret Lu (Greenwich, Conn.), four-time Junior World medalist

Competition begins at 8:30 a.m. local time (12:30 a.m. Eastern) for the women and at 10:10 a.m. local time (2:10 a.m. Eastern) for the men.

For complete results, visit

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

Men’s Saber Senior World Championships
1. Nikolay Kovalev (RUS)
2. Bongil Gu (KOR)
3. Tiberiu Dolniceanu (ROU)
3. Alexey Yakimenko (RUS)
5. Aron Szilagyi (HUN)
6. Aldo Montano (ITA)
7. Max Hartung (GER)
8. Woo Young Won (KOR)

19. Daryl Homer (Bronx, N.Y.)
26. Jeff Spear (Wynantskill, N.Y.)
36. Eli Dershwitz (Sherborn, Mass.)
50. Ben Igoe (Staten Island, N.Y.)

Women’s Saber Senior World Championships
1. Olga Kharlan (UKR)
2. Mariel Zagunis (Beaverton, Ore.)
3. Ekaterina Dyachenko (RUS)
3. Yana Egorian (RUS)
5. Vassiliki Vougiouka (GRE)
6. Dagmara Wozniak (Avenel, N.J.)
7. Aleksandra Socha (POL)
8. Sofya Velikaya (RUS)

10. Eliza Stone (Chicago, Ill.)
35. Ibtihaj Muhammad (Maplewood, N.J.)

Tag(s): News  Daryl Homer  Ibtihaj Muhammad  Dagmara Wozniak  Mariel Zagunis  Eliza Stone