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USA Fencing Announces 2016 U.S. Olympic Team Coaching Staff

07/22/2016, 6:30pm CDT
By Nicole Jomantas

(Colorado Springs, Colo.) – As the athletes of the U.S. Olympic Fencing Team have prepared for the Rio Games, behind each fencer stands a coach who also has dedicated months and years to helping Team USA prepare to stand on the podium when fencing competition begins on Aug. 6.

Team USA’s coaching staff includes both national coaches as well as the personal coaches for each athlete who will represent the United States in individual competition. These coaches will guide Team USA through a total of six individual and three team events in Rio.

Men’s Foil
After leading the United States to a fourth-place finish at the 2012 Olympic Games, three-time Olympian Greg Massialas (San Francisco, Calif.) is back at the helm for the squad at the culmination of a quadrennium in which the U.S. men have had their best results in history. Under Massialas’s guidance, the U.S. men’s team won silver at the 2013 World Championships and has  earned more World Cup medals than any men’s team in USA Fencing history. Now ranked No. 2 in the world, the U.S. men have medaled in five of the six events on the circuit this season. Massialas is the personal coach for his son, World No. 1 Alexander Massialas (San Francisco, Calif.), who won silver at the 2015 Senior Worlds, and World No. 4 Gerek Meinhardt (San Francisco, Calif.) who remains the only U.S. man to win medals at three Senior World Championships. Massialas will be joined by Simon Gershon (Brooklyn, N.Y.) A former coach of both the Ukraine and Soviet Union National Teams, Gershon has worked with six Olympians in the United States, including his student Miles Chamley-Watson (New York City, N.Y.) who became the first U.S. man to win individual gold at the Senior World Championships in 2013 and is considered to be a podium contender in Rio.

Women’s Saber
A legend in his own right, Ed Korfanty (Portland, Ore.) is returning as Team USA’s women’s saber coach for the fourth time. Since Korfanty took the helm of the women’s saber program, Team USA has won five medals over three Olympic Games with his students also earning six Senior World Championship titles, including two individual golds by Mariel Zagunis (Beaverton, Ore.) who will be returning to Rio as a three-time Olympic medalist and the No. 3 fencer in the world. Yury Gelman (Rockaway, N.Y.) is returning to his fifth Olympic Games and will coach two-time Olympian Dagmara Wozniak (Avenel, N.J.) in the individual event. The former coach of the U.S. Olympic Men’s Saber Team that won silver in Beijing, Gelman also will be in the box with Korfanty for the team competition where his student, Monica Aksamit (Avenel, N.J.), will be making her Olympic debut as a replacement athlete. A 2000 Olympian, Akhi Spencer-El (Bergenfield, N.J.), will be making his debut as a coach in Rio with his student Ibtihaj Muhammad (Maplewood, N.J.)

Women’s Epee                            
Andrey Geva (Houston, Texas)
joined the USA Fencing coaching staff in 2013 as the national coach for the program in the year following the team’s bronze medal win at the London Games. Since then, Geva has become the personal coach of London medalists Kelley and Courtney Hurley (San Antonio, Texas). The Hurleys are entering Rio after the most successful quad of their careers, where both athletes have won Grand Prix and World Cup medals. As a team, Geva led the squad to two World Cup medals and wins over China and Romania, the top two teams in the world, this season alone. Zoltan Dudas (Princeton, N.J.), who coached Katharine Holmes (Washington, D.C.) at the last three Senior World Championships, will be coaching at the Games for the first time in Rio. In the team event, Sebastien Dos Santos (St. Genes De Lombaud, France) will return to the Games for the second time. The former national team coach for the U.S. Men’s Epee Team that won gold at the 2012 Senior Worlds and silver in 2010, Dos Santos coached Seth Kelsey (Colorado Springs, Colo.) to an individual fourth-place finish in London. Dos Santos has traveled with the U.S. Women’s Team over the past few seasons and will be an asset to the squad as it seeks to return to the podium.

Women’s Foil
Three-time Olympic Coach Buckie Leach (Mt. Sinai, N.Y.) returned as the national team coach for the program in 2013. While Leach is known for building the women’s foil team into a powerhouse in the 1990s, he continues to groom champion athletes, including two-time Olympian Nzingha Prescod (Brooklyn, N.Y.), whom he has guided from her days as a Junior World Champion in 2011 to this past year where Prescod became the third U.S. woman in history to win an individual medal at the Senior World Championships. After coaching the women’s foil team in 2012, Amgad Khazbak (Lexington, Ky.) is returning to the Rio Games with two-time Olympian Lee Kiefer (Lexington, Ky.) who won bronze at the 2011 Senior Worlds as a 17-year-old and has won four individual World Cup medals this season, propelling the World No. 3 into position to potentially become the first U.S. woman to win an individual Olympic medal in foil.

Men’s Saber
A former foil coach at the 1996 Olympic Games, Zoran Tulum (Natick, Mass.) has accomplished the rare feat of serving as a national team coach for two different weapons. Tulum signed on to lead the men’s saber program in 2014 and will be coaching at the Games for the first time in saber. His student, 2015 Pan American Games Champion Eli Dershwitz (Sherborn, Mass.), will be the youngest member of the U.S. Olympic Fencing Team at just 20 years old. In addition to coaching women’s saber, Yury Gelman’s schedule will remain packed in Rio as he works with two-time Olympian Daryl Homer (Bronx, N.Y.), who won silver with Gelman at his side at the 2015 Senior World Championships.

Men’s Epee
Although the U.S. Men’s Epee Team fell just shy of qualifying for Rio, the race remained on to see who would earn an individual berth for the United States. Jason Pryor (South Euclid, Ohio), a 2015 National Champion, won the hotly contested race to qualify for his first U.S. Olympic Team in March. Pryor’s qualification came at the end of a season in which he made the move from the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs to New York City where he joined his former Ohio State teammate Christian Rivera (Brooklyn, N.Y.) Rivera will be one of the youngest coaches in Rio, but is hoping to make a name for himself with Pryor who ended his season with a silver at the Pan American Championships and has his heart set on even bigger goals in Rio.

Tag(s): News  Alexander Massialas  Gerek Meinhardt