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Mariel Zagunis Places Fifth at Gent World Cup, Team USA Finishes Sixth

02/24/2016, 10:00am CST
By Nicole Jomantas

Mariel Zagunis (left) fenced Jiyeon Kim (KOR) in the quarter-finals.

(Colorado Springs, Colo.) – Two-time Olympic Champion Mariel Zagunis (Beaverton, Ore.) placed fifth at the Gent World Cup in Belgium on Saturday.

Zagunis, who qualified to represent Team USA at her fourth Olympic Games last month, was exempt from pools and took an 8-2 lead against Karen Ngai Hing Chang (HKG) in the first period of the table of 64 before finishing the bout, 15-6.

In the table of 32, Anna Limbach (GER) held an 8-6 lead at the break before Zagunis outscored the German, 9-4, in the second period to win the bout, 15-12.

Zagunis trailed 2013 Senior World medalist Irene Vecchi (ITA) by three touches early in their table of 32 bout before ending the first period with three straight and an 8-7 lead. Zagunis controlled the second period, opening with three unanswered touches and finishing the round with a 15-12 victory.

The quarter-finals pitted Zagunis against Jiyeon Kim (KOR), the 2012 Olympic Champion who defeated Zagunis in the semifinals in London. Zagunis won their last two bouts with her most recent victory coming in October at the Caracas World Cup where Zagunis took gold. Zagunis kept the bout close and the score was tied at 11 when Kim went on a 4-1 run to take the bout, 15-12.

Ibtihaj Muhammad (Maplewood, N.J.), a 2014 Senior World team medalist who qualified for the Rio Games last month, came into the tournament ranked seventh in the world and drew five-time Senior World medalist Ilaria Bianco (ITA) in the table of 64. Muhammad dominated the first period, 8-3, and held on for a 15-12 win.

In the table of 32, Malgorata Kozaczuk (POL) took an 8-4 lead after the first period and ended the bout, 15-11.

Monica Aksamit (Matawan, N.J.), a 2009 Senior World Team member, finished 4-2 in the pool rounds on Friday and defeated Zoi Vahlas (GRE), 15-11, to qualify for the second day of competition.

In the table of 64, Aksamit defeated Lucrezia Sinigaglia (ITA), 15-12 and drew Rosella Gregorio (ITA), a former fifth-ranked fencer in the world, in the table of 32. Aksamit closed the first period with a 5-0 run to hold an 8-7 lead. Gregorio controlled the second half, however, and won the bout, 15-11.

Aksamit placed 29th overall – a second straight top-32 result this season which moves her from seventh to fifth in the National Team Point Standings with just two tournaments remaining before the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team is formally announced at the USA Fencing Division I National Championships on April 11 in Richmond.

Aksamit sits just 12 points behind four-time Junior World medalist Sage Palmedo (Portland, Ore.) who is ranked fourth after a 61st place finish in Gent. Palmedo finished the pool rounds with a 2-4 record on Friday, but came back with a pair of wins in the preliminary tables, defeating Mirabella Kelecsenyi (HUN), 15-9, and Matylda Ostojska (POL), 15-11. In the table of 64, Palmedo drew 2015 Senior World medalist Chen Shen (CHN) and lost the bout, 15-11.

Faizah Muhammad (Maplewood, N.J.), the younger sister of Ibtihaj, went 6-0 in pools to advance directly to the table of 64 where she lost to Lucia Martin-Portugues (ESP), 15-13, and finished 42nd. Muhammad remains sixth in the standings behind Aksamit, but notably passed 2014 Senior World Team Champion Eliza Stone (Chicago, Ill.) who now sits seventh in the standings. Stone, who also advanced directly out of pools with a 5-1 results, placed 41st after a 15-8 loss to Limbach.

With Palmedo, Faizah Muhammad and Stone all nearly maxed out on the number of points they can earn on top-64 international finishes, all eyes will be on Aksamit who still has one opening remaining for a 64 result when the team travels to Seoul next month for the Grand Prix – the final international tournament of the qualifying period.

On Sunday, Zagunis, Ibtihaj Muhammad, Palmedo and Stone fenced in the team event with Stone rejoining the squad in the absence of an injured Dagmara Wozniak (Avenel, N.J.)

Team USA dominated its opening match against Hong Kong with a 45-17 victory in the table of 16.

The Americans lost to Italy, 45-38, in the quarter-finals and needed two more wins to take fifth.

Although Team USA defeated Pan Am rival Mexico, 45-30, in the first match of the 5th – 8th place table, the Americans lost to Italy, 45-38, in the final match and ended the day in sixth place.

Click here to view complete results.

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

Gent Women’s Individual Saber World Cup
1. Olga Kharlan (UKR)
2. Yana Egorian (RUS)
3. Jiyeon Kim (KOR)
3. Sofya Velikaya (RUS)
5. Mariel Zagunis (Beaverton, Ore.)
6. Anna Marton (HUN)
7. Rossella Gregorio (ITA)
8. Vassiliki Vougiouka (GRE)

17. Ibtihaj Muhammad (Maplewood, N.J.)
29. Monica Aksamit (Matawan, N.J.)
41. Eliza Stone (Chicago, Ill.)
42. Faizah Muhammad (Maplewood, N.J.)
61. Sage Palmedo (Portland, Ore.)
88. Kamali Thompson (Teaneck, N.J.)
127. Daria Schneider (New York City, N.Y.)
139. Sarah Merza (Wayne, N.J.)
140. Martha Merriam (Tenafly, N.J.)
162. Celina Merza (Wayne, N.J.)

Gent Women’s Team Saber World Cup
1. Russia
2. France
3. Ukraine
4. Italy
5. Poland
6. USA
7. Japan
8. Mexico

Tag(s): Monica Aksamit