skip navigation

U.S. Women’s Saber Team Finalized for Rio with Aksamit as the Fourth

03/26/2016, 3:15pm CDT
By Nicole Jomantas

The U.S. Women's Saber Team (l-r): Ibtihaj Muhammad, Dagmara Wozniak, Coach Ed Korfanty, Monica Aksamit and Mariel Zagunis. Photo Credit: Cathy Zagunis.

Monica Aksamit. Photo Credit: Jeremy Summers

(Colorado Springs, Colo.) – The U.S. Women’s Saber Team qualified for the Rio Olympic Games in January and soon the three individual positions were secured by two-time Olympic Champion Mariel Zagunis (Beaverton, Ore.), 2012 Olympian Dagmara Wozniak (Avenel, N.J.) and Ibtihaj Muhammad (Maplewood, N.J.)

While the trio of Team USA fencers have been together since 2010, winning gold at the 2014 Senior Worlds and bronze at five other Worlds, the replacement athlete position for the team event remained open with half a dozen athletes in contention for the spot.

When the Seoul Grand Prix began in Korea on Friday, four-time Junior World Team medalist Sage Palmedo (Portland, Ore.) and 2009 Senior World Team member Monica Aksamit (Matawan, N.J.) sat in the fourth and fifth positions in the USA Fencing National Point Standings with just 12 points separating them.

Former World University Games Team member Faizah Muhammad (Maplewood, N.J.), 2014 Senior World Team Champion Eliza Stone (Chicago, Ill.), 2015 World University Games Team member Kamali Thompson (Teaneck, N.J.) and two-time Senior World Team member Daria Schneider (New York City, N.Y.) were all eligible to take the replacement athlete position as the sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth-ranked athletes, respectively.

Zagunis and Ibtihaj Muhammad were both exempt from the pool rounds while Wozniak remained Stateside rehabbing an injury.

In the pool rounds, Stone, Schneider and Faizah Muhammad fenced in the first flight and each faced challenges in their quest to advance.

Stone ended the pools with a 3-3 record while Schneider and Muhammad would be eliminated after posting 2-4 results.

In the second flight, Aksamit finished with a 5-1 record, defeating a field of athletes that included three-time Senior World Team Champion Dina Galiakbarova (RUS) and 2014 Senior World team silver medalist Saoussen Boudiaf (FRA). Her successful round meant that Aksamit would advance directly to the table of 64 on Saturday.

Thompson went 4-2 in the pools and Palmedo finished 3-2 to advance to the preliminary tables with Stone.

All three athletes won their preliminary table rounds to advance to the second day. Thompson defeated Bianca Jo (KOR), 15-8. Palmedo won her bout against Sevil Bunyatova (AZE), 15-7, and Stone held out to defeat Lucia Martin-Portugues (ESP), 15-13.

On Saturday, the race came down to two fencers after the first round: Aksamit and Thompson.

Both athletes won their bouts by 15-13 scores with Aksamit defeating Jianrui Qian (CHN) and Thompson beat 2015 European Games team medalist Viktoriya Kovaleva (RUS).

Palmedo and Stone each found themselves out of contention for Rio when they lost their table of 64 bouts.

Palmedo faced 2015 Senior World medalist Chen Shen (CHN) for the second time in the 64 during the last two events. She kept the bout close, but Shen took the win, 15-12. Stone fenced 2015 Senior World medalist Cecilia Berder (FRA) and lost her bout, 15-4.

In the table of 32, Aksamit fenced an aggressive first period, taking an 8-1 lead against Eileen Grench (PAN) and closed the bout with a 15-6 win.

Thompson fenced 2003 Senior World medalist Aleksandra Socha (POL) in the 32, but took a loss at 15-8 and would be unable to catch Aksamit and the rankings.

With her position on Team USA secured, Aksamit fenced 2012 Olympic Champion Jiyeon Kim (KOR) in the table of 16. Aksamit would secure her first best result ever at a Grand Prix, but missed the quarter-finals after Kim went on a 7-1 run in the second period to take the win, 15-4, in her home country.

Zagunis, Muhammad, Wozniak and Aksamit will be nominated to the 2016 U.S. Olympic Fencing Team in April. All athletes are subject to approval by the U.S. Olympic Committee. 

Zagunis and Muhammad each earned top-16 finishes as well with Zagunis placing 10th and Muhammad finishing 13th.

Zagunis took big wins in her first two bouts, defeating Beline Boulay (FRA) and Ara Kim (KOR) by 15-9 and 15-3 scores. In the table of 16, however, she lost to Vassiliki Vougiouka (GRE), 15-11.

Muhammad began with a 15-8 win against Lucrezia Sinigaglia (ITA) in the table of 64 and defeated Lea Krueger (GER), 15-7, in the 32. Muhammad drew 2015 Senior World bronze medalist Anna Marton (HUN) in the 16 and dropped the bout, 15-12.

Click here to view complete results.

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

Seoul Women’s Saber Grand Prix
1. Yana Egorian (RUS)
2. Jiyeon Seo (KOR)
3. Sofiya Velikaya (RUS)
3. Vassiliki Vougiouka (GRE)
5. Jiyeon Kim (KOR)
6. Anna Marton (HUN)
7. Aleksandra Socha (POL)
8. Manon Brunet (FRA)

10. Mariel Zagunis (Beaverton, Ore.)
13. Ibtihaj Muhammad (Maplewood, N.J.)
16. Monica Aksamit (Avenel, N.J.)
28. Kamali Thompson (Teaneck, N.J.)
59. Eliza Stone (Chicago, Ill.)
61. Sage Palmedo (Portland, Ore.)
104. Daria Schneider (New York City, N.Y.)
105. Katherine Mentzer (Boston Mass.)
111. Faizah Muhammad (Maplewood, N.J.)

Tag(s): News  Monica Aksamit