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Wozniak and Dershwitz Win Double Saber Gold at Pan Am Games

07/21/2015, 3:15am CDT
By Nicole Jomantas

Pan Am Games Champions Eli Dershwitz and Dagmara Wozniak. Photo Credit: Devin Manky Photography

(Colorado Springs, Colo.) – London Olympian Dagmara Wozniak (Avenel, N.J.) and 2015 Junior World Champion Eli Dershwitz (Sherborn, Mass.) went through a whirlwind of airports, countries and time zones to reach that moment on Monday night when they heard the Star Spangled Banner play at the Pan American Games in Toronto.

Wozniak and Dershwitz were among the first arrivals from a U.S. Saber Team that ended competition on Friday night at the Senior World Championships in Moscow Russia. After Wozniak collected her team bronze and Dershwitz placed fifth with the men’s squad, the two went to the dinner celebrating the USA Fencing Team’s historic five-medal haul and had just enough time to pack and catch middle-of-the night shuttles for the plane that would ultimately get them to Toronto on Saturday.

With just Sunday to recover and adjust to the seven hour time difference between Toronto and Moscow, Wozniak and Dershwitz were back on the competition strip to fence for another chance at gold.

The women’s events began first and Wozniak finished the pool rounds with a 4-1 record, giving her a fifth seed and setting up a quarter-final collision between Wozniak and two-time Olympic Champion Mariel Zagunis (Beaverton, Ore.) who was seeded fourth after she also finished with a 4-1 result.

Still getting her bearings in the table of 16, Wozniak was tied with Heyydys Ysabel Valentin (DOM) at eight in the second period before ending with a seven-touch run and a 15-8 victory.

In her table of 16 bout, Zagunis wasted little time in polishing off her opponent, Fatima Tobar (ESA), by a 15-2 score to advance to the quarters against Wozniak.

Although Zagunis has won their last six international meetings, four of those bouts came by margins of three touches or less and Wozniak came out of the first period on Monday with an 8-4 lead over her friend and teammate. Zagunis tied the bout at 12 before Wozniak closed with three unanswered scores to take the win, 15-12.

Zagunis would be back on the strip in the semifinals – this time as Wozniak’s strip coach against Gabriella Page (CAN). With Wozniak up by a touch at the break, Page scored four straight to open the second period with an 11-8 lead. Wozniak outscored Page, 7-2, in the second to advance to the finals against Alejandra Benitez (VEN).

Wozniak may have been fencing in her first individual event at the Pan Am Games after winning team gold in 2011, but she has won silver or bronze at the last four Pan Am Championships, including a silver behind Zagunis at the Pan Ams in Santiago, Chile in April.

In the finals, Wozniak showed her determination to come away with gold when she held off a late run by Benitez who tied the bout at 12. Wozniak gave up just one more touch as she ended with a 3-1 run and a 15-13 victory.

The win marks Wozniak’s first senior international individual title and concludes a season in which she ended the year ranked No. 7 in the world after winning a pair of bronze medals at the Orleans and Athens World Cups and earning a 12th place individual result at the Senior World Championships.

At 19-years-old, Dershwitz entered the Pan Am Games as the USA Fencing Team’s youngest member, but one who is well on his way to qualification for the 2016 Olympic Games where he would likely be one of Team USA’s youngest male athletes.

The reigning Junior World Champion fell one touch short of advancing past the table of 64 at the Senior World Championships, but Dershwitz is the two-time reigning Senior Pan Am Champion who has defeated many of the athletes in the field during the last two seasons.

Dershwitz started off the day slowly, however, posting a 3-2 result in pools to earn the sixth seed in the tournament.

He settled into the table of 16, however, giving up just three touches in each period to Jose Quintero (VEN) en route to take the bout, 15-6.

In the quarters, Dershwitz met Shaul Gordon (CAN) – a familiar opponent as Gordon is a junior at UPenn while Dershwitz fences for Harvard where he won bronze as a freshman this year at the NCAA Championships.

Gordon kept the bout close early in the first with a tie at four before Dershwitz pulled away, ultimately securing a medal in his Pan Am Games debut with a 15-10 win.

In the semis, Dershwitz drew Ricardo Bustamante (ARG) – one of the two fencers Dershwitz dropped bouts to in the pools. The DEs would be a different matter altogether with Dershwitz giving up fewer touches to the Argentinian in a 15-touch bout than he had in their five-touch meeting. After an 8-3 first period, Dershwitz dominated the second for a 15-4 victory.

Dershwitz’s gold medal opponent, 2012 Pan Am Champion Joseph Polossifakis (CAN) came within a touch of Dershwitz at 9-8 in the second period before Dershwitz scored six of the next seven touches as he went on to take the bout, 15-9.

Capping a season in which Dershwitz is now ranked 17th in the world as a senior, this is Dershwitz’s fifth international gold medal of the 2014-15 year, including titles at the 2015 Senior Pan Am and Junior World Championships as well as the 2014 Budapest Junior World Cup and the 2015 Reykjavik Satellite Tournament.  

His teammate, 2012 Olympian Daryl Homer (Bronx, N.Y.), came to Toronto as the top seed in the event after winning silver at the Senior Worlds in Moscow.

A 2012 Pan Am Champion, Homer is a first-time Pan Am Games Team member who finished 4-1 in pools and dominated his first opponent, William Zeytounlian (BRA) for a 15-8 win.

The quarters would feature a rematch between Homer and Renzo Agresta (BRA) – the 2013 Pan Am Champion whom Homer defeated, 15-14, in the semis of the Pan Am Championships in April.

Up, 8-6, at the break, Homer was caught by Agresta in the second half as the Brazilian tied the bout at nine and took a 14-11 lead before splitting the final two touches for a 15-12 victory.

Click here to view complete results.

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

Pan American Games Men’s Saber
1. Eli Dershwitz (Sherborn, Mass.)

2. Joseph Polossifakis (CAN)
3. Ricardo Bustamante (ARG)
3. Renzo Agresta (BRA)
5. Shaul Gordon (CAN)
6. Daryl Homer (Bronx, N.Y.)
7. Julian Aayala Navarrete (MEX)
8. Noslen Montalvo (CUB)

Pan American Games Women’s Saber
1. Dagmara Wozniak (Avenel, N.J.)

2. Alejandra Benitez (VEN)
3. Maria Belen Perez Maurice (ARG)
3. Gabriella Page (CAN)
5. Paola Pliego (MEX)
6. Eileen Grench (PAN)
7. Rossy Felix Lara (DOM)
8. Mariel Zagunis (Beaverton, Ore.)

Tag(s): News  Eli Dershwitz