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U.S. Men’s Foil Team Sweeps Golds in Paris, Qualifies for Rio

01/18/2016, 6:12pm CST
By Nicole Jomantas

Miles Chamley-Watson, Race Imboden, Alex Massialas and Gerek Meinhardt won gold at the Paris World Cup and secured Team USA's position at the Rio Olympic Games. Photo Credit: Augusto Bizzi

(Colorado Springs, Colo.) – On a weekend in which the Star Spangled Banner played twice at the Stade Pierre de Coubertin, the U.S. Men’s Foil Team won both individual and team golds and secured its position at the Rio Olympic Games.

Fencing at the most prestigious World Cup on the circuit, the Americans made history in 2015 when 2012 Olympian Race Imboden (Brooklyn, N.Y.) became the first U.S. fencer to win the Paris World Cup and Team USA followed the next day with a second gold.

History would be repeated this weekend when Imboden successfully defended his title on Saturday and Team USA defeated Italy to win the team gold on Sunday.

Imboden would be joined on the podium by two-time Olympian Gerek Meinhardt (San Francisco, Calif.) who won his second individual bronze in Paris in the last three seasons.

Imboden and Meinhardt each earned exemptions into the table of 64 on Saturday due to their top-16 world rankings alongside their 2012 Olympic teammates Alexander Massialas (San Francisco, Calif.) and Miles Chamley-Watson (New York City, N.Y.)

Unfortunately, the table of 64 draw, put Team USA’s fencers on a collision course with each other as four members of the American squad all found themselves in the same quadrant. Massialas, Meinhardt, Chamley-Watson and 2011 Junior World Team Champion Brian Kaneshige (Maplewood, N.J.) would each need to fence American opponents to see who would make it to the medal rounds where the winner would face Imboden who won four straight DE bouts to advance to the semifinals.

Imboden began the day with a rematch against Jean-Paul Tony Helissey (FRA) who defeated the American at the Torino Grand Prix last month. This time, Imboden made the bout a quick one for a 15-7 victory. In the table of 32, Imboden found himself down, 10-5, against 2014 Senior World Champion Alexey Cheremisinov (RUS), but came back to tie the bout in the second period at 11 and earn a 15-13 victory. Richard Kruse (GBR) kept their table of 16 bout close as well, but Imboden earned another 15-13 win to qualify for the quarter-finals.

With one win needed to secure a medal, Imboden went on a six-touch run in the second period of his bout against 2015 World Team Champion Daniele Garozzo (ITA) to take the bout, 15-10.

On the blue strip, the all-American bouts began with the first matchup of the day between Massialas and Kaneshige – his teammate at the 2011 and 2013 Junior Worlds. Massialas claimed a 15-10 win and defeated Ka Long Cheung (HKG), 15-7, to set up a table of 16 bout against Chamley-Watson who was fresh off a 15-8 defeat of 2012 Olympic silver medalist Alaaeldin Abouelkassem (EGY).

The bout would be their second in a week as Massialas defeated Chamley-Watson in the gold medal final of the December North American Cup. At the time, Chamley-Watson’s silver medal moved him past Imboden to take the third position in the National Team Point Standings, but now he would need at least another win to hold that spot. While Massialas held only a one-touch lead at 9-8, a six-touch run would allow him to close out the bout at 15-8.

Meanwhile, Meinhardt dominated Andrii Pogrebniak (UKR), 15-1, in the 64 and bested 2013 Junior World medalist Lorenzo Nista (ITA), 15-10, in the 32, but his bout against Mohamed Samandi (TUN) had American fans on edge in the 16 when he was nearly upset by the Tunisian before claiming the bout, 15-14.

The quarter-finals would be another close one between the two teammates who train together at the Massialas Foundation in San Francisco with the score tied at five early in the first period before Meinhardt scored eight touches to Massialas’s three to hold a 13-8 lead at the break. Meinhardt went on to close out the bout, 15-11, in the second period to secure a podium finish and a bout with Imboden.

With a more-than-lifesize version of his 2015 victory photo hanging behind him in the stadium and the spotlights shining on the final strip, Imboden became virtually unstoppable in the semis, defeating Meinhardt, 15-3, and controlling his final against five-time Senior World Champion Peter Joppich (GER) for a 15-9 win.

Not only does Imboden now become the only U.S. athlete ever to win the Paris World Cup individual title, but he is the first athlete from any nation to win individual gold twice at this event since 2007 when Benjamin Kleibrink (GER) earned his second straight title in Paris. Incidentally, Kleibrink would go on to take the 2008 Olympic gold as well.

Imboden’s win allowed the American to climb to No. 4 in the world rankings and move past Chamley-Watson for the third position in the National Team Point Standings. With two international and one domestic tournament remaining for the Olympic qualification season, the top three athletes in the point standings after the Division I National Championships (April 8-11 in Richmond) will earn positions on the U.S. Men’s Foil Team for Rio while the fourth will attend the Games as a replacement athlete for the team event only.

Formerly No. 1 in the world, Massialas dropped to No. 2 by a single ranking point behind 2015 Senior World Champion and Meinhardt gives Team USA three athletes in the top eight with a No. 7 world ranking. Chamley-Watson held onto his position in the top-16 with a No. 12 ranking.

Jerry Chang (Mountain View, Calif.), a 2012 Junior World Team Champion, earned a career-best result at a European World Cup with his 22nd place finish in Paris.

After finishing the pool rounds at 6-0 on Friday, Chang advanced directly to the table of 64 where he defeated Daiki Fujino (JPN), 15-8, before losing to 2012 Olympic Team Champion Giorgio Avola (ITA), 15-9.

In the team event, Imboden, Massialas, Meinhardt and Chamley-Watson returned to the strip to defend their 2015 title.

With a bye into the table of 16, Team USA won or tied eight of their nine bouts against Ukraine to win the match, 45-33.

In the quarter-finals, the Americans defeated Japan, 45-26, with Massialas earning a +11 indicator and defeating Ota, the reigning World Champion, by a 5-1 score.

Korea gave the Americans a scare in the semifinals, however, keeping the score within a touch as Team USA led the bout by the narrowest of margins at 37-36 after eight bouts. Massialas held Jun Heo to just three touches in the anchor bout as he led Team USA to a 45-39 victory.

The gold medal match would feature both of the 2015 finalists as Team USA faced off against Italy – the reigning World and Olympic Champions.

The Italians controlled the first three bouts to take a 15-9 lead when Chamley-Watson took the strip and put away Avola with a 9-3 run to tie the bout at 18. Imboden also put in an impressive performance, scoring 19 touches in three bout, but Italy held onto a 39-37 lead after eight bouts. In the anchor bout, Massialas struggled against Garozzo who scored four straight and was poised to close out the bout when Massialas scored eight unanswered touches to secure the win for Team USA.

In addition to winning the gold, Team USA shot up from No. 5 to No. 1 in the Olympic Rankings, securing its position at the 2016 Olympic Games with one team qualification event remaining. Team USA now has three more team events before Rio which will each be used to determine seeding at the Games.

Click here to view complete results.

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

Paris Men’s Individual Foil World Cup
1. Race Imboden (Brooklyn, N.Y.)

2. Peter Joppich (GER)
3. Gerek Meinhardt (San Francisco, Calif.)
3. Dmitry Rigin (RUS)
5. Alexander Massialas (San Francisco, Calif.)
6. Daniele Garozzo (ITA)
7. Jianfei Ma (CHN)
8. Giorgio Avola (ITA)

10. Miles Chamley-Watson (New York City, N.Y.)
22. Jerry Chang (Mountain View, Calif.)
64. Brian Kaneshige (Maplewood, N.J.)
77. David Willette (Lafayette, Calif.)
204. Jason Chang (Mountain View, Calif.)

Paris Men’s Foil Team World Cup
1. USA

2. Italy
3. Great Britain
4. Korea
5. France
6. Russia
7. China
8. Japan

Tag(s): News  Race Imboden  Alexander Massialas  Gerek Meinhardt  Miles Chamley-Watson