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Dershwitz Qualifies for Rio with Gold Medal Win at Seoul Grand Prix

03/27/2016, 10:00pm CDT
By Nicole Jomantas

Eli Dershwitz qualified for Rio and became just the second U.S. men's saber fencer ever to win a Grand Prix title. Photo Credit: Mark Deibert.

(Colorado Springs, Colo.) – Twenty-year-old Eli Dershwitz (Sherborn, Mass.) ended the Olympic qualification season the way he began it – on top of the podium.

Dershwitz, who won the Pan American Championships in April of 2015, won his first ever Grand Prix title on Saturday in Seoul, Korea.

The win sealed Dershwitz’s position at the Olympic Games where the Harvard sophomore will join his teammate, 2015 Senior World silver medalist Daryl Homer (Bronx, N.Y.), in the individual competition in Rio.

Dershwitz, who is now ranked No. 8 in the world, became the first U.S. man to win a Grand Prix title since 2008 Olympic team silver medalist Keeth Smart (Brooklyn, N.Y.) won the Madrid event in 2003.

Seeded 11th in the tournament, Dershwitz knew at the start of the event that the final U.S. individual position in the men’s saber event in Rio would come down to himself or 2012 Olympian Jeff Spear (Wynantskill, N.Y.) who would need a gold medal win to have a chance at qualifying for his second Olympic Games.

Dershwitz and Spear both began with first-round wins on the second day of competition. Dershwitz opened his table of 64 bout against Gabriele Foschni (ITA) with an 8-1 lead at the break and finished with four straight touches to close out a 15-9 victory. 

Spear, who advanced to the second day after finishing 5-1 in pools, found himself down by four touches against 2013 Junior World silver medalist Andras Szatmari (HUN), 14-10, but scored five straight touches to take the win, 15-14.

In the table of 32, Spear fenced Maxence Lambert – a Frenchman who made a late comeback to defeat Homer, 15-13, in the previous round. Lambert held a 13-10 lead before Spear scored four straight to set the score at 14-13. Lambert tied the bout at 14, however, and scored the last hit for a 15-14 victory.

Dershwitz’s table of 32 opponent, 2014 Senior World Team Champion Benedikt Wagner (GER), led their bout, 8-4, at the break, but Dershwitz controlled the second period to win the bout, 15-14.

The win would guarantee that Dershwitz would represent Team USA this summer as the youngest member of the U.S. Olympic Fencing Team.

Fencing in the table of 16 on the World Cup circuit for the third time during the Olympic qualifying period, Dershwitz held 2015 Senior World bronze medalist Max Hartung (GER) at an 11-11 tie in the second period on his way to taking the bout, 15-13.

Dershwitz would secure one of his greatest wins yet in the quarter-finals when he upset World No. 3 Bongil Gu (KOR) at his home tournament. Not only did Dershwitz hold an 11-8 lead in the second period, but he gave up just one touch at the end of the bout to defeat the two-time individual Senior World medalist, 15-9, to guarantee his first ever podium finish at a Grand Prix.

Dershwitz fenced 2014 Senior World Champion Nikolay Kovalev (RUS) in the semis, scoring seven unanswered touches to go from a two-touch deficit in the second period to a 15-10 win over the 2012 individual Olympic bronze medalist.

In the finals, Dershwitz held a two-touch lead at the break at 8-6 and outscored Mojtaba Abedini (ITA), 7-3, in the second period for a 15-9 win.  

Dershwitz not only qualified for Rio, but has established himself as a potential medal contender after a season that has included wins over three of the top six saber fencers in the world.

Dershwitz and Homer 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. 

Click here to view complete results.

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

Seoul Men’s Saber Grand Prix
1. Eli Dershwitz (Sherborn, Mass.)
2. Mojtaba Abedini (IRI)
3. Nikolay Kovalev (RUS)
3. Diego Occhiuzzi (ITA)
5. Alexey Yakimenko (RUS)
6. Bongil Gu (KOR)
7. Junghwan Kim (KOR)
8. Kamil Ibragimov (RUS)

23. Jeff Spear (Wynantskill, N.Y.)
33. Daryl Homer (Bronx, N.Y.)
96. Will Spear (Wynantskill, N.Y.)
97. Evan Prochniak (Hudson, N.H.)
107. Zackery Brown (Watchung, N.J.)
111. Peter Souders (Silver Spring, Md.)
133. Marty Williams Jr. (Danbury, Conn.)


Tag(s): Eli Dershwitz  Daryl Homer