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Kelley Hurley Wins First Career Grand Prix Medal in Rio de Janeiro

05/26/2015, 11:00am CDT
By Nicole Jomantas

Kelley Hurley (far right) on the podium in Rio de Janeiro. Photo Credit: Serge Timacheff / FIE /

(Colorado Springs, Colo.) – With 436 days remaining before the 2016 Olympic Games come to Rio de Janeiro, London Olympic medalist Kelley Hurley (San Antonio, Texas) reached a new career milestone on Sunday when the two-time Olympian won her first Grand Prix medal in the 2016 Olympic host city.

Hurley, who won her first individual World Cup medal in St. Maur last season, has reached the international podium twice in recent months with her win in Rio coming on the heels of a silver medal at the Pan American Championships – the first 2016 Olympic qualifier in Santiago, Chile which was held in April.

“So far my 2016 Olympic qualifying season is a whole different story from my 2012 Olympic qualifying season,” said Hurley who finished fourth in the rankings in 2012 and competed in London as the replacement athlete for the team event. “I think the biggest difference that these early good results are doing for me is taking off the pressure. I can finally breathe for a second. And I feel like I fence much better when I don't have a gun to my head, so to speak. That's how it felt in 2012 trying to qualify, the harder I tried and the more I worried, the worse and worse I would fence. But now, I went into the season with a new view, that whatever happens happens and all I can do is be in great shape and hope whatever luck comes my way that I'm ready to take advantage of it.”

After a 5-1 finish in the pools on Saturday, Hurley advanced directly to the table of 64, but luck hardly seemed to be working in her favor when a technical problem meant that the start time for her opening bout was moved up by two hours. When she arrived at the venue, though, the bout was moved back when her table of 64 opponent – Alejandra Cisneros (ESP) – wasn’t on site.

Despite her initial stress, Hurley took an 8-5 lead over Cisneros after the first period and outscored the Spaniard, 7-1, in the second to win the bout, 15-6.

In the table of 32, Hurley drew Britta Heidemann (GER) – the 2008 Olympic Champion who won silver in London. Up 8-6 at the break, Heidemann grew her lead to three touches at 12-9 in the second period before Hurley scored four out of the next five touches to tie the bout at 13. Hurley picked up another single and doubled out to take the bout, 15-14.

“Honestly, I sort of blacked out at the end of the Heidemann bout. I don't know how I caught up. I knew that I had to start pushing, because time was starting to run out,” Hurley said. “I'm still amazed I was able to come back and win. All I was thinking was ‘Fight. Don't give up. It's possible.’”

In the table of 16, Hurley fenced 2010 Junior World silver medalist Lauren Rembi (FRA) for the second time of the weekend after Rembi gave Hurley her only loss in the pool rounds.

Hurley and Rembi were tied at three touches each after the second period and seven late in the third when Hurley outscored her opponent, 6-4, in the final minute to defeat Rembi for the first time by a 13-11 score.

While many of the top fencers in the world fell during the earlier rounds, Hurley would face World No. 1 Emese Szasz (HUN) in the quarter-finals. A win against the four-time Senior World medalist would secure a medal for Hurley who last fenced Szasz in an individual event at the 2010 Senior Worlds where the Hungarian won silver and Hurley placed in the top 16.

Hurley started the bout aggressively and took an 8-3 lead in the first period.

“I am amazed I got so far ahead of Szasz. It was almost like she wasn't taking me super seriously in the beginning, and I always welcome those touches,” Hurley said. “Even when I got ahead, I knew I couldn't possibly lose focus because she is the best in the world and there's no way she'd give up that easily. So I was always expecting a fight before a win. I was nervous the whole bout waiting for catch up time. Fortunately I was ready for it when it happened!”

Indeed, Szasz mounted a late comeback and came within a touch of Hurley at 14-13, but Hurley kept focus and scored a single with 30 seconds remaining in the second period to win the bout, 15-13.

In the evening semifinal, Hurley fenced Coraline Vitalis (FRA) – the reigning Junior World Champion who also was having the best day of her senior career after defeating two-time Olympic medalist Yujie Sun (CHN) in a previous bout.

Vitalis held a 3-2 lead after the first period and Hurley came back in the second where she was up by a touch at 7-6 before Vitalis scored five straight singles. Vitalis retained her five-touch lead to finish the second period at 14-9 and doubled early in the third for a 15-10 victory.

Hurley’s bronze medal marks the second time in history that a U.S. women’s epee fencer has reached the podium on the Grand Prix circuit after her younger sister, 2012 Olympic team medalist Courtney Hurley (San Antonio, Texas), took silver at the Havana Grand Prix in 2015.

“This is definitely one of my favorite things that's ever happened to me in fencing – ever. It feels amazing and especially to have it happen during the Olympic qualifying year. It doesn't get much better than this. My parents were able to watch the whole thing online. My team, sister and boyfriend were there in the stands cheering me on. It was the best feeling,” Hurley said. “I can't express enough how much the training at the Alliance Fencing Academy and working one on one with the national coach, Andrey Geva, has helped Courtney and I. I'm sure that's also a big part of it.”

Not only was the Rio Epee Grand Prix the third event of the Olympic qualifying series, but it was one of the first major events to be held in the 2016 Olympic host city during the two-year leadup to the Games.

“Rio is always our favorite event on the circuit to go to. The last couple times we've gone we've had a great time. I was really interested in seeing what Rio would be doing in order to prepare for the Games and I talked to many of the volunteers at the competition who were extremely excited about it. And now that I feel I have a pretty good shot at making it, I can't help but be excited too," Hurley said.

Hurley was one of five U.S. fencers to qualify for the table of 64 at a tournament that also served as the final qualifying event for the 2015 Senior World Championships in Moscow in July.

At the start of the event, both Hurleys and teammate Kat Holmes (Washington, D.C.) had the first three positions on Team USA secured while the fourth slot remained open.

Following her 6-0 result in the pools, sixth-ranked Katarzyna Trzopek (Pacifica, Calif.) was poised to move into the fourth position by qualifying automatically for the table of 64.

Francesca Bassa (Houston, Texas), a 2009 Junior World Team member, also was in contention for the No. 4 ranking after she defeated Pauline Brunner (SUI), 15-9, in the preliminary DEs to qualify for the table of 64. Ranked 11th in the nation, Bassa would need at least a top-16 finish to qualify for her first Senior World Team.

Trzopek lost her table of 64 bout to Nozomi Sato (JPN), 10-9, and qualified for her first U.S. National Team with a 37th place result that pushed her from sixth to fourth in the National Team Point Standings.

Bassa lost to reigning Senior World Champion Katrina Lehis (EST) in the table of 64. Her 49th place finish allowed Bassa to move up from No. 11 to No. 8 in the team standings.

Holmes advanced to the table of 64 after a 5-1 pool result and defeated Nelli Paju (EST), 15-8, in her opening round on Sunday.

In the table of 32, Holmes and Ayaka Shimookawa (JPN) took a noncombattivity call in the first period and Holmes held a 6-2 lead in the second before closing out the bout at 15-9 in the final seconds of the third.

Fencing in the table of 16 for the fourth time on the circuit this season, Holmes drew Szasz for the first time in an individual event. Szasz led by only two points at 6-4 going into the second period, but a 9-1 run allowed the Hungarian to finish the bout with a 15-5 win.

Exempt from the pool rounds due to her top-16 world ranking, Courtney Hurley was tied with Jinsil Yu (KOR) at five in the second period before a run of five singles put her in a 10-5 lead by the end of the period. Hurley outscored Yu, 5-4, in the third to win the bout, 15-9.

In the table of 32, Hurley and two-time Senior World team medalist Anqi Xu (CHN) were tied at seven in the third period when Xu went on an 8-2 run to finish with a 15-9 win.

Click here to view complete results.

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

Rio de Janeiro Women’s Epee Grand Prix
1. Francesca Boscarelli (ITA)
2. Coraline Vitalis (FRA)
3. Kelley Hurley (San Antonio, Texas)
3. Yiwen Sun (CHN)
5. Emese Szasz (HUN)
6. Rossella Fiamingo (ITA)
7. Marie Florence Candassamy (FRA)
8. Loredana Dinu (ROU)

11. Katharine Holmes (Washington, D.C.)
22. Courtney Hurley (San Antonio, Texas)
37. Katarzyna Trzopek (Pacifica, Calif.)
49. Francesca Bassa (Houston, Texas)
66. Lindsay Campbell (Brooklyn, N.Y.)
86. Anna Van Brummen (Houston, Texas)
88. Natalie Vie (Phoenix, Ariz.)
93. Amanda Sirico (Bowie, Md.)
109. Isabel Ford (Salem, Ore.)
151. Nina Van Loon (Boulder, Colo.)
153. Danielle Henderson (Piscataway, N.J.)

Tag(s): News  Courtney Hurley  Kelley Hurley  Kat Holmes