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Linder and Kumbla Win July Challenge Golds in Dallas

07/01/2016, 11:15pm CDT
By Nicole Jomantas

Division I men's foil podium. Photo Credit: Nicole Jomantas

Kara Linder (left) won the Division I women's saber gold medal final against Alexis Anglade. Photo Credit: Nicole Jomantas

(Dallas, Texas) – The first two Division I gold medalists of the July Challenge on Wednesday were a pair of teenage fencers with aspirations of using this event as both a springboard towards qualifying for the 2017 Junior World Championships.

Sixteen-year-old saber fencer Kara Linder (Chandler, Ariz.) was the day’s first champion. The 2015 Cadet Mixed Team World Champion had a tough time in pools, finishing 3-3 and falling from a No. 3 seed at the start of the day to No. 32 in the direct elimination rounds.

Linder won her opening bout in the 64 against Tiffany Dell’Aquilla (TPE), 15-4, and advanced to the table of 16 after top seed Nora Burke (New York City, N.Y.) withdrew from the event.

After a 15-13 win against Victoria Zhang (Carmichael, Calif.), Linder won her next bout, 15-9, against Galen Cadley (New York City, N.Y.) to qualify for the medal rounds.

Linder advanced to the finals with a 15-13 win against Zara Moss (Cranberry Township, N.J.) in the semis. Her opponent, Alexis Anglade (Alpharetta, Ga.), surprised the field when she qualified for the finals as a 14-year-old who finished 35th out of pools. Despite her age, Anglade defeated each of her first three opponents by at least six-touch margins and won her last two bouts by three to earn her position in the finals.

Unfazed by the crowd, Anglade scored four straight touches to open her bout against Linder who fought back to tie the bout at five and take an 8-6 lead at the break. Linder scored six straight to open the second period and dropped just one to win the bout, 15-7.

Linder said she wasn’t bothered by her early deficit and knew she had plenty of time to make up the touches.

“I was just like ‘eh, it’s only a difference of a couple points whether I win or lose,’ so I just wanted to fence my best,” Linder said. “I’m really happy with my result because I’ve had some lingering injuries that haven’t been healing very well, so just to get on the podium was a big deal for me.”

The July Challenge is Linder’s first event since April when she placed eighth at the Division I Nationals after finishing in the top eight as well at the Cadet Worlds and taking medals in both team events.

“Junior and Cadet Worlds was kind of an eye-opening experience. It’s not like a regular World Cup. So I struggled a little bit, but I’m ready to try for team next year,” said Linder who still has three events remaining on her competition schedule this week. “Winning gives me extra confidence, but anything can happen because everyone fences differently every day.”

A member of the 2015 Cadet World Team, 17-year-old Sidarth Kumbla (San Jose, Calif.) reached the top eight as a Div I fencer for the first time at the Nationals in April and ended the event on Wednesday with a gold medal at the first event of the selection season for the 2017 Junior World Team.

Although Kumbla was seeded fourth with a 6-0 record out of pools, his direct elimination bouts would be a series of nail biters, beginning with a 15-13 win against 2014 Cadet World Team member Aaron Ahn (Los Angeles, Calif.) in the 64. After a 15-9 win against Mohamed Hassan (EGY), Kumbla defeated Zohaib Mannan (Short Hills, N.J.), 15-13, and Gregory Mitberg (Beaverton, Ore.), 15-14.

Competing in his first Div I semi, Kumbla won his bout against 2015 Cadet World and Div I National Champion Sam Moelis (Hewlett, N.Y.), 15-11.

Kumbla went on to fence Adam Mathieu (Union City, N.J.) in the final bout, following Mathieu’s semi win against 2016 Div I National Champion Thomas Dudey (Bellaire, Texas), 15-8.

With the score tied at three in the first period, Mathieu scored four of the next five touches to gain a 7-4 lead. Kumbla scored six straight, ending with three in the final 15 seconds before the break to end the period, 10-7.

“I had a lot of motivation from back home. I keep that in the back of my mind when I’m fencing and I use that as motivation to get that extra push,” said Kumbla who let out a howl before and after every touch. “Me and Adam both have a similar technique where we scream before we fence to make sure we’re prepared and ready to fence and so he would scream and I would scream before we fence. It was kind of like we were growling at each other, but we’re really good friends and it was like a back and forth.”

Kumbla owned most of the second period with a 13-8 lead, but Mathieu scored twice to cut Kumbla’s lead to three going into the second break. Kumbla scored first in the third to come within a touch of the win, but Mathieu picked up three straight to stay in the bout and cut Kumbla’s lead to 14-13. Kumbla took the final score, however, for a 15-13 win.

“Staying at the end of the strip was working for me and that’s what my coach was telling me to do, so it was really just about discipline and focusing and sticking to the technique that my coach said and, at the end, even though he was up by a few points, when I was at the end of the strip, I was able to close out,” Kumbla said. “I’ve been working really hard. It’s just been a lot of training and it’s really paid off, so I’m happy with my result.”

Former Junior World No. 1 Ben Natanzon (Manalapan, N.J.) came to Dallas to defend his 2015 July Challenge title in junior men’s saber and earn points to qualification for his second Junior World Team.

Natanzon showed little doubt that he was one of the best in the field, giving up just seven touches in the pool rounds and taking dominant wins in his direct elimination bouts. After a bye into the table of 128, Natanzon defeated Tyson Dougall (Beaverton, Ore.), 15-7, and Kevin Callahan (Glen Rock, N.J.), 15-9, to make the 32.

Natanzon won his next two bouts by 15-3 scores against Ben Scholl (Portland, Ore.) and Ariel Croitoru (Golden Beach, Fla.) to qualify for the quarters where he defeated Connor Mills (Medford, N.J.), 15-12.

In the semifinals, Natanzon took out Samuel Kwong (Los Altos Hills, Calif.), 15-12.

Calvin Liang (Chandler, Ariz.), a 2014 Cadet World Team member, seemed to be the one person who could stop Natanzon and, indeed, took a 7-4 lead in the first period of their gold medal final, but Natazon finished the period with four straight touches to put himself up, 8-7, at the break. Liang scored the first two touches of the second period before Natanzon ran away with the bout for a 15-9 victory.

The Division IA National Championship events both included first-time gold medalists. A former fencer at Penn State, Sam Larsen (Beaverton, Ore.) earned the men’s epee title, ending with the gold in a field of 149 participants after a 15-10 win against Michael Geraghty (Kennesaw, Ga.)

A pair of teenagers faced off in the Div IA women’s foil final. Fourteen-year-old Louise Tang (Bellevue, Wash.) took on 15-year-old Rachel Zhang (Winchester, Mass.) in the gold medal final. Zhang tied the bout at 12 late in the third, but Tang scored first in overtime to take the bout, 13-12.

Click here to view complete results.

Top eight results are as follows:

July Challenge Division I Men’s Foil
1. Sidarth Kumbla (San Jose, Calif.)
2. Adam Mathieu (Union City, N.J.)
3. Sam Moelis (Hewlett, N.Y.)
3. Thomas Dudey (Bellaire, Texas)
5. Blake Broszus (San Jose, Calif.)
6. Gregory Mitberg (Beaverton, Ore.)
7. Daniel Sconzo (Merrick, N.Y.)
8. Eoin Gronningsater (Brooklyn, N.Y.)

July Challenge Division I Women’s Saber
1. Kara Linder (Chandler, Ariz.)
2. Alexis Anglade (Alpharetta, Ga.)
3. Brenda Yang (Skillman, N.J.)
3. Zara Moss (Cranberry Township, Pa.)
5. Daniella Timofeyev (Antelope, Calif.)
6. Galen Cadley (New York City, N.Y.)
7. Violet Michel (Cambridge, Mass.)
8. Gillian Litynski (Niskayuna, N.Y.)

July Challenge Junior Men’s Saber
1. Ben Natanzon (Manalapan, N.J.)
2. Calvin Liang (Chandler, Ariz.)
3. Andrew Doddo (South Orange, N.J.)
3. Samuel Kwong (Los Altos Hills, Calif.)
5. Karol Metryka (Linden, N.J.)
6. Christopher Walker (Atlanta, Ga.)
7. Khalil Thompson (Teaneck, N.J.)
8. Connor Mills (Medford, N.J.)

July Challenge Junior Women’s Epee
1. Kasia Nixon (Los Angeles, Calif.)
2. Tatijana Stewart (Ogden, Utah)
3. Amanda Han (Las Vegas, Nev.)
3. Gigi Vierheller (Houston, Texas)
5. Cindy Gao (CAN)
6. Karolina Nixon (Los Angeles, Calif.)
7. Joy Ma (Merrick, N.Y.)
8. Lake Mawu Sheffield (Brooklyn, N.Y.)

National Championships Division IA Men’s Epee
1. Samuel Larsen (Beaverton, Ore.)
2. Michael Geraghty (Kennesaw, Ga.)
3. Maciek Zmyslowski (Des Plaines, Ill.)
3. Yuly Suvorov (Kirkland, Wash.)
5. Andy Faubert (McMinville, Ore.)
6. Thomas Petrosewicz (Richmond, Texas)
7. ZIad Khayat (San Jose, Calif.)
8. Sean Callaghan (Pocatello, Idaho)

National Championships Division IA Women’s Foil
1. Louise Tang (Bellevue, Wash.)
2. Rachel Zhang (Winchester, Mass.)
3. Sharon Chen (Diamond Bar, Calif.)
3. Zoe Sylvester-Chin (Teaneck, N.J.)
5. Karina Wang (Lutherville Timonium, Md.)
6. Audra Fox (White Plains, N.Y.)
7. Maria Stamos (New York, N.Y.)
8. Helen Tan (Coppell, Texas)

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