Silver medalist Nicole Ross and Pan Am Champion Lee Kiefer with Coach Buckie Leach. Photo Credit: Nicole Jomantas
U.S. men's saber won three medals with Daryl Homer taking silver, Eli Dershwitz winning gold and Jeff Spear earning bronze. Photo Credit: Nicole Jomantas
(Colorado Springs, Colo.) – When a then-16-year-old Lee Kiefer (Lexington, Ky.) won her first Pan American title in 2010, few would have known that the gold would be the first of six straight victories – a zonal record she set on Monday at the Pan American Championships in Santiago, Chile.
Less than a year ago, Kiefer’s former Junior and Senior World teammate, Eli Dershwitz (Sherborn, Mass.), found himself in a similar position as a 17-year-old who made his first senior international individual medal a gold one.
Both athletes would return to the Pan Ams this year with both the pressure of defending gold as well as the knowledge that the Pan Ams mark the beginning of the 2016 Olympic qualifying season where both women’s foil and men’s saber are individual events with no team qualification component.
Kiefer finished No. 2 in the pools and dominated her second bout of the day where she scored 14 straight before giving up just one to Cecillia Martinez Alicea Pilar (PUR) on the penultimate touch of her table of 32 bout.
In the table of 16. Kiefer fenced Kelleigh Ryan (CAN) in a rematch of their 2014 Pan Am final. Kiefer defeated Ryan, 15-7, to lead Team USA to a four-athlete top-eight finish.
Kiefer would fence 2014 Youth Olympic Games Champion Sabrina Massialas (San Francisco, Calif.) in the quarters after Massialas defeated Flavia Johana Mormandi (ARG), 15-7, in the table of 16.
Another quarter-final featured a bout between 2012 Olympic teammates Nicole Ross (New York City) and Nzingha Prescod (Brooklyn, N.Y.)
Ross and Prescod each faced close calls in the table of 16 with Ross holding off Nataly Michel (MEX) and Prescod edging Ana Beatriz Bulcao (BRA), 15-13.
Lee started off strong in her quarter-final against Massialas for a 7-2 lead, but Massialas fenced her way to come within two at 12-10 in the third before Kiefer closed with a 15-10 score.
In a repeat of their 2014 quarters, Ross and Prescod faced off again. While Prescod won last year and went on to take bronze, this time Ross came out on top at 15-12.
After warming up together, Kiefer and Ross went their separate ways for the semifinals where Kiefer reeled off a 15-2 win against Isis Gimenez (VEN). Colombian Saskia Loretta Van Erven Garcia tied Ross at 12, but Ross adjusted and finished with three straight to win the bout, 15-12.
In the gold medal final, Kiefer held a 7-3 lead going into the last minute of the first period and went into the break up by seven at 12-5.
Kiefer and Ross each scored touches to start the second period before Ross went on a run with a series of flicks to close the gap to a single touch at 13-12. Kiefer regrouped and scored the two touches she needed to take the win at 15-12.
“It was scary at the end and I was pretty panicked. Sabrina also had a pretty nice comeback earlier too and I just started running at people at the end which is usually not the best solution, but it helped me keep moving and think better,” Kiefer said. “Every year it’s a battle here. You’re fencing your teammates. You’re fencing kids from the collegiate circuit. It’s always a struggle, but I’m happy to have been able to win again. “
The win puts Kiefer in a good position as the 2016 Olympic qualification cycle begins for women’s foil where the top 14 athletes in the Adjusted Official Rankings (World Rankings with a maximum of two per country qualifying) will earn automatic slots at the Rio Games.
The Pan American Championships is the first of the zonal qualifying events and one of 10 events at which athletes can earn AOR points. While men’s and women’s epee, men’s foil and women’s saber will be team events at the Games, qualification is an individual process for women’s foil and men’s saber.
“I’m excited for the Olympic qualification. I’m taking the year off from school and it makes me excited for the year ahead of me,” said Kiefer.
As the Olympic qualification season begins, Kiefer remains ranked at a career-high No. 3 in the world and the top-eight finisher in London has made herself a candidate to medal in Rio.
“It’s pretty crazy because I’m ahead of some pretty amazing fencers who I never dreamed I’d be close to competing with a few years ago so it really shows my progress in the past few years,” Kiefer said.
Like Kiefer, Dershwitz began the day with a 6-0 run in pools that earn him a No. 4 seed in the direct elimination tables, behind 2012 Olympians Jeff Spear (Wynantskill, N.Y.) and Daryl Homer (Bronx, N.Y.) who were seeded first and second, respectively.
After a bye into the table of 32, Dershwitz blazed through his first three opponents as he held each to single digit scores with wins over Eduardo Lara (MEX), 15-7; Teddy Weller (ISV), 15-4; and Joseph Polossifakis (CAN), 15-8.
“I started off the day pretty well in pools and I brought the same intensity from when I won a Junior Worlds a two weeks ago throughout my DEs,” Dershwitz said.
Dershwitz would face Spear in the semifinals with Spear coming off a 15-10 win against Venezuelan Jose Quintero.
Homer took a 15-4 win over Ricardo Alberto Bustamante (ARG) in the quarter-finals and would fence No. 3 seed Renzo Agresta (BRA) in the semis following Agresta’s win 15-10 earlier in the day over Homer’s teammate Peter Souders (Silver Spring, Md.) in the table of 16.
Agresta took Homer down to the wire in the semis, but the America came through with a 15-14 victory while Dershwitz controlled the All-Team USA semi bout against Spear for a 15-12 win.
In the gold medal final, Dershwitz went on an 8-2 run and seemed nearly untouchable, but Homer outscored his teammate, 11-4, in the second period to take a 13-12 lead.
“I was just thinking ‘I gotta take my time and reset.’ I knew I had to start fencing smart again and just play my game,” said Dershwitz who scored three straight to take the bout, 15-13. “In the second half, I made some tactical errors, but I came through with some nice touches at the end.”
Dershwitz had less than a week after flying back from Junior Worlds in Uzbekistan where he won gold in the individual event and bronze in team before it was time to leave for Costa Rica.
“I fenced really well all day, but it's hard. Being gone for a week for Worlds, being back for a few days, catching up on schoolwork and then coming here ... It's really hard,” the Harvard freshman said. “But I guess all the hard work I put in during this season really came through even though I didn't have that much time at practice in between, I think muscle memory just took over.”
Dershwitz said he tried not to focus on the Olympic ramifications of the Pan Ams throughout the day.
“I was just trying to fence this like a normal tournament and not put too much pressure on myself. Everyone’s thinking of it in the back of their minds, but I didn’t want to do anything different, eat anything different, act any different. I just wanted to keep my normal routine and see where that gets me,” he said.
Click here to view complete women’s individual foil results.
Click here to view complete men’s individual saber results.
Top eight and U.S. results are as follows:
Pan American Championships Women’s Individual Foil
1. Lee Kiefer (Lexington, Ky.)
2. Nicole Ross (New York City)
3. Isis Gimenez (VEN)
3. Saskia Loretta Van Erven Garcia (COL)
5. Nzingha Prescod (Brooklyn, N.Y.)
6. Melissa Rebolledo (MEX)
7. Eleanor Harvey (CAN)
8. Sabrina Massialas (San Francisco, Calif.)
Pan American Championships Men’s Individual Saber
1. Eli Dershwitz (Sherborn, Mass.)
2. Daryl Homer (Bronx, N.Y.)
3. Jeff Spear (Wynantskill, N.Y.)
4. Renzo Agresta (BRA)
5. Joseph Polossifakis (CAN)
6. Jesus Carvajal (VEN)
7. Jose Quintero (VEN)
8. Ricardo Alberto Bustamante (ARG)
13. Peter Souders (Silver Spring, Md.)
Tag(s): News Archive Eli Dershwitz Daryl Homer Nicole Ross Jeff Spear Lee Kiefer Nzingha Prescod Latest News Sabrina Massialas