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Race Imboden Wins Third Individual Pan Am Title, Team USA Takes Five Medals on Opening Day

04/19/2015, 7:00am CDT
By Nicole Jomantas

Team USA's medalists (l-r): Kelley Hurley (silver / epee), Alex Massialas (silver / foil), Race Imboden (gold / foil), Gerek Meinhardt (bronze / foil) and Kat Holmes (bronze / epee). Photo Credit: Nicole Jomantas

A triumphant Race Imboden after his gold medal win in Santiago. Photo Credit: Nicole Jomantas

(Colorado Springs, Colo.) – The Star-Spangled Banner played once and the American flag was hung five times on the podium on Saturday as Team USA opened the Pan American Championships in Santiago, Chile with a 1-2-3 finish in men’s foil and silver and bronze wins in women’s epee.

Ranked No. 2 in the world, London Olympian Race Imboden (Brooklyn, N.Y.) celebrated his 22nd birthday a day late with his third individual men’s foil gold medal win at the Pan Ams after taking titles in 2011 and 2012.

The No. 2-ranked fencer in the world at the start of the tournament, Imboden was the one to watch at the start of the competition and he came to Santiago with both the desire to win another Pan Am title and the confidence that he could return to the top of the podium after a season that has included two World Cup wins and four podiums already.

“I kind of go in knowing that I’m the best and knowing that if I do what I need to do then it will be a good day,” Imboden said.

Imboden and his London teammate Gerek Meinhardt (San Francisco, Calif.) came out of the pool rounds tied for first after each fencer only gave up seven touches in six bouts. Imboden’s stats were all the more impressive as four of those seven touches were from a comeback win against Chilean Ruben Silva and three of his bouts were shutouts.

Imboden took the top seed and Meinhardt was assigned No. 2 which put him on the same side of the bracket as 2012 Olympians Alex Massialas (San Francisco, Calif.) and Miles Chamley-Watson (New York City, N.Y.) who were seeded third and fifth, respectively.  

After a bye into the table of 32, Imboden dominated his first two direct elimination bouts with wins against Raul Arizaga (MEX) and Cesar Aguirre (VEN) by 15-5 and 15-4 scores, respectively.

In the quarter-finals, Canadian Max Van Haaster scored more touches on Imboden than his previous two opponents combined and was aiming for an upset with a 13-10 lead before Imboden answered with five straight to win the bout, 15-13.

Imboden’s teammates would also secure medals after 15-13 quarter-final wins with Meinhardt defeating Ghislain Perrier and Massialas winning his bout against Chamley-Watson.

The quarters were followed by an Opening Ceremony before the medal rounds would be held and all four members prepared for the medal rounds where Chamley-Watson was in Imboden’s corner for the semis.

Imboden faced little challenge from Heitor Simbo (BRA) in the bout, however, as he came out with a 5-0 lead and never looked back, needing just over three minutes to take the 15-5 win.

Meinhardt stayed within two touches of Massialas for most of their semifinal bout, but Massialas pulled away at 13-10 with 30 seconds remaining in the first period and went into the break with a 14-11 lead.

Although Meinhardt scored once top open the second period, Massialas replied with the winning touch and a 15-12 victory over the 2013 and 2014 Pan American Champion.

The final bout would be a close one between the two friends who have fenced on cadet, junior and senior national teams together since 2010.

“I fenced him in my first Pan Am final and we’ve grown up together. So it’s kind of amazing that we’re still the top guys on the Pan American circuit, but it’s always a challenge to fence him,” Imboden said. “He’s a great competitor and he works his butt off on the strip and it’s hard to fence him, but it’s a great bout to have and he’s a great teammate to have.”

As expected, the first period remained close with Massialas holding an 8-6 lead midway through the bout and Imboden replying with a 4-1 run to retake the lead at 10-9. Imboden finished the first period with a single-touch lead, 11-10, at the break.

Imboden controlled the start of the second period as he grew his lead to 14-11.

“I just wanted to get those last touches off. I got a 14-11 lead, so I took control and that’s what I wanted to do. If you can give yourself that kind of margin, you’re giving yourself a good chance,” Imboden said.

Massialas picked up two more touches before Imboden finished with a 15-13 win, marking his third individual international gold medal of the season and fifth podium finish.

“I had a rough two years finding myself in the sport and I think it’s showed this year that I’ve committed myself to fencing. I love the sport. I wake up and I live and die fencing and I wouldn’t have it any other way and, when you do that, fencing pays you back,” said Imboden who was also grateful to all of his supporters back home. “Everything I learn and everything I do is from my coach, Dan Kellner, and we have a great team together. Justin Tausig, Ally Peters, Dan Kellner and Paulie who’s a weightlifting coach and my nutritionist at the OTC who’s now leaving to be the Chicago Bears nutritionist. So I have a fantastic team and we prepared really hard and wanted to make sure there’s no errors and that we’ll take all of the chances out of it.”

In the women’s epee event, 2012 Olympic team bronze medalist Kelley Hurley (San Antonio, Texas) came to San Antonio as the 2011 Pan Am Champion who finished outside the medal rounds after a loss to her younger sister and London teammate Courtney Hurley (San Antonio, Texas).

This year, it would be up to Kelley to bring a medal back to the Hurley household after Courtney lost her table of 16 bout to Amanda Simeao.

Although Kelley says she had a tough day in pools, she still pulled out a 5-1 finish to take the sixth seed in the DEs, finishing just ahead of her two-time Senior World teammate Kat Holmes (Washington, D.C.) and Courtney who were seeded seventh and eighth.

First-time team member Isabel Ford (Salem, Ore.) drew a short pool and went 3-2 before losing her table of 64 bout to Caily Mendoza Venzant (CUB), 6-2.

Both the Hurleys and Holmes advanced directly to the 32 where Kelley defeated Maria Josefina Duenas Nicolau (ARG), 15-5, and Courtney won her bout against Katherine Miller (BRA), 15-11. Holmes fenced Ford’s previous opponent, Mendoza Venzant, in her table of 32 bout and took the win, 15-10.

In the table of 16, both Kelley Hurley and Holmes advanced to the quarter-finals after Hurley routed Elida Sandra Aguero (ARG), 15-4, and Holmes defeated Dayana Martinez (VEN), 15-11.

Hurley and Holmes set up their semifinal against each other with a pair of 15-11 quarter-final wins with Hurley defeating No. 3 seed Lizzie Asis (VEN) and Holmes taking out No. 2 seed Yamika Rodriguez Quesada (CUB).

After a long break, the teammates would take the strip in the semis where Holmes held a 6-5 lead after the first two periods.

“The whole match felt kind of like a warmup bout. I fence her so often that it doesn’t feel as real as some others. It was really tit for tat,” Hurley said.

With Holmes up, 7-6, in the second period, Hurley scored a pair of singles to take an 8-7 lead. Holmes tied at eight and Hurley scored another single for a 9-8 lead with 18 seconds remaining on the clock.

The two exchanged touches with Hurley holding a 12-11 lead before Holmes scored the tying touch with three seconds remaining in the bout.

Hurley scored first in the overtime period to take the win, 13-12.   

“I did feel confident in that last touch. That was the most confident I felt, so I guess I saved the best for last,” she said.

In the gold medal final, Hurley led 2010 Senior World medalist Nathalie Moellhausen (BRA), 6-5, at the start of the third and grew her lead to 8-6 before Moellhausen tied the bout at eight. Hurley scored again with 19 seconds remaining and had hopes of holding the one-touch lead, but Moellhausen tied the bout in the final 12 seconds.

After a double in the overtime period, Moellhausen scored the winning touch in the second half of the bout to take gold, 10-9, for her first Pan Am title since changing her representation from Italy to Brazil after the 2012 Olympic Games.

“The whole bout I felt pretty good until the last two minutes that I really just ran out of gas. I was just empty and I realized that I hadn’t really eaten anything today. I missed lunch and all I had was an apple and there were so many things I could have done to improve my energy levels, but I didn’t,” Hurley said. “I still did pretty well for as tired as I was, though. Silver’s never my favorite color, but I think I fenced really well today. I was really proud of how I fenced, especially because it was a bit rough in the pools, but it picked up as the day went on.” 

Click here to view complete men’s individual foil results.

Click here to view complete women’s individual epee results.

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

Men’s Individual Foil Pan American Championships
1. Race Imboden (Brooklyn, N.Y.)
2. Alex Massialas (San Francisco, Calif.)

3. Heitor Shimbo (BRA)
3. Gerek Meinhardt (San Francisco, Calif.)
5. Guilherme Toldo (BRA)
6. Miles Chamley-Watson (New York City, N.Y.)
7. Ghislain Perrier (BRA)
8. Maximilien Van Haaster (CAN)

Women’s Individual Epee Pan American Championships
1. Nathalie Moellhausen (BRA)
2. Kelley Hurley (San Antonio, Texas)
3. Kat Holmes (Washington, D.C.)

3. Leonora MacKinnon (CAN)
5. Yamika Rodriguez Quesada (CUB)
6. Lizzie Asis (VEN)
7. Eliana Lugo (VEN)
8. Amanda Simeao (BRA)

10. Courtney Hurley (San Antonio, Texas)
35. Isabel Ford (Salem, Ore.)

Tag(s): News  Courtney Hurley  Kelley Hurley  Race Imboden  Alexander Massialas  Miles Chamley-Watson  Kat Holmes