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Team USA Wins Gold, Zagunis Earns Bronze in Women’s Saber Season Opener

11/03/2014, 11:45am CST
By Nicole Jomantas

Team USA gold medalists (L-R): Ibtihaj Muhammad, Dagmara Wozniak, Monica Aksamit, Mariel Zagunis and Coach Ed Korfanty. Photo Credit: Monica Aksamit.

(Colorado Springs, Colo.) – The U.S. Women’s Saber Team held onto the top ranking in the world on Sunday after a gold medal in the first tournament of the new season at the Margarita Island World Cup in Venezuela.

Team USA’s gold medal came the day after two-time Olympic Champion Mariel Zagunis (Beaverton, Ore.) won bronze in the individual event.

As the top-ranked team in the world, the United States earned a bye into the quarter-finals where Zagunis and teamamtes Dagmara Wozniak (Avenel, N.J.), Ibtihaj Muhammad (Maplewood, N.J.) and Monica Aksamit (Matawan, N.J.) won six of the first eight bouts against Spain. Wozniak fenced in the anchor position and locked down a 45-35 victory for Team USA.

In the semifinals, the Americans took on France in a rematch of the gold medal final at the 2014 Senior World Championships.

Again, Team USA controlled most of the match and Zagunis finished the victory with a 5-1 win against Cecilia Berder to give the Americans a 45-36 win.

The gold medal final pitted Team USA against Russia – a team that won gold at the Senior World Championships in 2010, 2011 and 2012. With Russia up 35-30 after the seventh bout, Wozniak outscored 2014 Senior World medalist Yana Egorian, 10-4. With a one-touch cushion, Zagunis took the final strip against 2011 Senior World Champion Sofya Velikaya. While Velikaya won their previous bout on Saturday, Zagunis dominated Velikaya, 5-1, and Team USA won the match, 45-40.

On Saturday, Zagunis won bronze in an event held under a new format in which both preliminary and table of 64 rounds were held on the same day.

Exempt from pool rounds, Zagunis opened with two wins over Japanese opponents – Mami Itoh and Chika Aoki – whom she defeated by 15-6 and 15-8 scores, respectively.

Zagunis gave up just five touches in the table of 16 as she defeated four-time individual Senior World medalist Ilaria Bianco (ITA), 15-5, to qualify for the quarter-finals where she earned a 15-12 win against 2014 Senior World medalist Yana Egorian (RUS).

In the semifinals, Zagunis faced Velikaya for the first time in an individual event since March. Although Velikaya won their final bout at the 2011 Senior Worlds, Zagunis came into this one with a 2-1 record over Velikaya during the last three seasons.

The bout remained close throughout the first period with Velikaya holding a one-touch, 8-7, lead at the break. Zagunis scored early in the second period, but Velikaya finished the bout with a six-touch run and a 15-9 victory.

Two of Zagunis’s teammates, Wozniak and Aksamit, each advanced to the table of 16.

Seeded fourth in the tournament, Wozniak defeated Rossy Felix Lara (DOM), 15-14, and 2007 Senior World medalist Bogna Jozwiak (POL), 15-11, in her first two direct elimination rounds. Wozniak fenced a close table of 16 bout to Velikaya, but lost to the 2012 Olympic silver medalist by a score of 15-13.

Aksamit defeated Tania Arrayales (MEX), 15-11, and Muhammad, 15-14, to earn her third top-16 finish of the year. In her next bout, however, Aksamit lost to Egorian, 15-12.

Daria Schneider (New York City, N.Y.) defeated Huixian Liang (CHN), 15-11, in the table of 64, but lost her next bout to third seeded Vassiliki Vougiouka (GRE), 15-6.

U.S. fencers Sage Palmedo (Portland, Ore.) and Kamali Thompson (Teaneck, N.J.) were both eliminated in the table of 64.

Palmedo lost to Laia Vila (ESP), 15-5, and Thompson dropped her bout against 2011 Senior World medalist Yuliya Gavrilova (RUS), 15-12.

Click here to view complete individual results.

Click here to view complete team results.

Margarita Island Individual Saber Senior World Cup
1. Charlotte Lembach (FRA)
2. Sofya Velikaya (RUS)
3. Mariel Zagunis (Beaverton, Ore.)
3. Aleksandra Socha (POL)
5. Vassiliki Vougiouka (GRE)
6. Yana Egorian (RUS)
7. Rossella Gregorio (ITA)
8. Anna Limbach (GER)

9. Dagmara Wozniak (Avenel, N.J.)
13. Monica Aksamit (Matawan, N.J.)
19. Ibtihaj Muhammad (Maplewood, N.J.)
27. Daria Schneider (New York City, N.Y.)
37. Sage Palmedo (Portland, Ore.)
48. Kamali Thompson (Teaneck, N.J.)
75. Loweye Diedro (New York, N.Y.)
78. Regina O’Brien (Wellesley, Mass.)

Margarita Island Team Saber Senior World Cup
1. USA

2. Russia
3. France
4. Italy
5. Poland
6. Spain
7. China
8. Mexico

Tag(s): Monica Aksamit  Ibtihaj Muhammad  Dagmara Wozniak  Mariel Zagunis