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Nick Itkin Wins Junior World Championships, Team USA Claims Three Foil Medals

04/07/2018, 11:30pm CDT
By Kristen Henneman

Gold medalist Nick Itkin with bronze medalists Sidarth Kumbla and Lauren Scruggs. Photo Credit: Augusto Bizzi / FIE

(Verona, Italy) -- Nick Itkin (Los Angeles, Calif.) won the junior men’s foil title and Sidarth Kumbla (San Jose, Calif.) and Lauren Scruggs (Ozone Park, N.Y.) each earned the bronze on the first day of the foil events on Saturday in Verona.

The trio would lead the Americans in their single day of results as seven U.S. fencers advanced to the 16 with four earning top-eight finishes.

Winning the first individual gold medal for Team USA at the Junior World Championships since 2016, Itkin went 7-0 on the day to become the first U.S. men’s foilist to earn individual gold since Alex Massialas (San Francisco, Calif.) in 2013.

“It’s unbelievable. This is something I’ve dreamed of for a while,” said Itkin, who won gold in the team event at the 2017 Junior Worlds. “I’m insanely excited right now. I feel really good.”

After going 5-1 in pools to earn a bye to the table of 128, Itkin cruised through his first three rounds, giving up a combined eight points.

He dominated his bout with Jaeyeop Park (KOR), 15-2, before taking quick victories against Gustavo Alarcon (CHI) and Diego Cervantes (MEX) by 15-3 scores.

“I just wanted to stay confident,” Itkin said. “I felt like I could [win the whole thing] from the beginning, but I just kept that going in my head through the whole day.”

Itkin’s table of 16 matchup would not only be much tougher, but would be very familiar as Itkin drew teammate Geoffrey Tourette (Cupertino, Calif.), who earned the No. 2 seed with a 6-0 finish in pools and breezed through his first three DE bouts,  besting Kaloyan Nikolov (BUL), 15-4; Jose Charreu (POR), 15-6; and Hyeonjin Kim (KOR), 15-7.

Close throughout, Itkin broke a 9-9 tie by taking four of the next five points. Tourette was unable to recover and Itkin advanced to the quarter-finals, 15-12.

“We’ve fenced each other so many times, but from practice to a world stage, it’s totally different,” Itkin said. “It was a really tough bout, but I felt pretty good in the end.”

One win away from guaranteeing a medal, Itkin jumped out to a 6-1 start over Kenta Suzumura (JPN), but Suzumura worked his way back into the bout, tying the score at 10.

Still tied at 11, Itkin took two straight touches and closed on a 4-1 run for a 15-12 victory.

In the semifinals, Itkin faced another teammate in Kumbla. Unlike in his previous bouts, Itkin had to come back from behind as Kumbla took a 4-0 lead to start.

Down 8-4, Itkin rattled off five straight touches to take his first lead. He continued to build on his momentum, going up 13-9, but Kumbla responded to equalize at 13. Extra time would be required to decide a winner and Itkin took the bout, 14-13.

“We had an insane bout. I’m glad that we got to share the podium,” Itkin said. ”I think in the beginning I was rushing it a lot, but at the end I started slowing down and thinking more about my touches instead of just rushing.”

Itkin never trailed in the final against 2016 Cadet World bronze medalist Tommaso Marini (ITA). At 4-3, Itkin scored six of the next seven points to take control, which he would never relinquish as he won, 15-11, to become the Junior World Champion.

“In the end, he started to catch up, but I tried to calm myself and not think too far ahead, just focus on each touch.”

On his journey to bronze, Kumbla started his day with a 15-10 victory over Ondrej Lasak (CZE) in the 128 and a 15-12 win over Diego Marroquin (MEX) in the 64.

In the 32, Kumbla used a 6-0 start to control his bout against Oliver de Jong (NED), 15-5.

The following round, Kumbla defeated Luis Klein (GER), 15-10. At 11-10, he closed with four straight points to come within one win of a medal.

However, that one win would not come easily. Faced with an uphill battle after going down 12-6 to Pierre Loisel (FRA), Kumbla found another gear and quickly scored three points. Loisel then got his 13th touch, but Kumbla put another four on the board to tie it up at 13. Still deadlocked at 14, Kumbla won the decisive touch and completed the impressive comeback, winning 15-14.

“I just kept repeating ‘I believe in myself. I believe in myself,’” Kumbla said. “I was down a lot in the quarter-final at the beginning and at the end, I was able to make a comeback because I didn’t give up until the end and that really was one of my best bouts today.”

With Itkin and Kumbla squaring off in the semifinal, the U.S. was guaranteed two people on the podium in junior men’s foil for the first time since 2010.

“[Nick and I] are just like brothers and it’s awesome because we’ve grown up with each other and we’ve fenced since Y14, Y12s and now we’re here on the world stage and we’re fencing and we’re on the same podium that we were at these Bay Cups or these NACs,” Kumbla said. “It’s an amazing feeling.”

In the junior women’s foil competition, Scruggs kept Team USA’s medal streak alive as her bronze marks the eighth straight year a U.S. junior women’s foilist has stood on the podium.

One of the youngest members of the U.S. Team at 15 years old, Scruggs went 4-1 in pools and defeated Sarra Afi (TUN), 15-8, in the table of 128.

In the 64, Scruggs edged out Aliya Dhuique-Hein (GER), 15-14. She came from behind and refused to lose as Dhuique-Hein had multiple opportunities to take the bout when she took a 14-12 lead.

The table of 32 would see Scruggs upset Marta Martyanova (RUS) – a 2014 Cadet World Champion who won silver at the 2017 Long Beach Grand Prix. Tied at six, Scruggs went on a 4-0 run to earn a 10-6 advantage and she would hold on for a 15-10 victory.

“[The key to that bout] was patience and being really strict with what I was doing,” Scruggs said. “I tried not to make a lot of mistakes. I think that was a big factor. I was fencing really well that bout.”

After beating another Cadet World medalist, this time 2015 Cadet World bronze medalist Victoria Yusova (RUS) by a score of 15-10, Scruggs got off to a 5-1 start in her quarter-final bout versus Jane Caufield (CAN). Scruggs would go on to take the bout, 14-7, securing a medal for the U.S.

“I was just really happy,” Scruggs said. “I was training a lot before this tournament. The past two weeks, I was going to practice everyday, so the hard work paid off.”

In the semifinals, Scruggs came out strong, going up 6-2, but Martina Favaretto (ITA) worked her way back into the mix and tied the bout at nine. Scruggs took the next touch, but Favaretto responded with four straight touches and closed out the bout on a 6-2 run for a 15-11 victory.

“I think I was doing fine and then there was a point in the bout where she went ahead and I had to rush, and I think that’s where it kind of fell apart.”

Scruggs will be fencing again on Sunday in the cadet event and hopes to lead Team USA to a medal in the team event on Monday.

The most experienced member on the squad, 2016 Cadet World Champion Sylvie Binder (Armonk, N.Y.) earned a fifth-place finish in Verona.

In her first direct elimination bouts of the day, she overcame Andrea Breteau (ESP), 15-7, in the table of 64 before defeating Maxine Jie Xin Wong (SGP), 15-6.

In the 16 against Kata Kondricz (HUN), Binder used two 3-0 runs in the second period to secure a 15-12 victory and a place in the quarter-finals.

There, Binder’s run came to an end as she fell, 15-10, to Yuka Ueno (JPN). Ueno went on to upset Favaretto to win gold.

Finishing in the top 16, Delphine DeVore (Westport, Conn.) was hot out of the gate, going 6-0 in pools to take the No. 1 seed.

She easily won her table of 64 bout against Sophia Werner (GER), 15-5, and posted a 15-10 victory over Rebeca Candescu (ROU), but in the 16, DeVore came up short to Eva Lacheray (FRA), 15-13.

May Tieu (Belle Mead, N.J.) also went undefeated in pools. However, after cruising past Anna Lee (IRL), 15-7, in the 64, Tieu dropped her table of 32 bout to Yue Shi (CHN), 15-13.

Both Tieu and DeVore also will have quick turn-arounds as they will fence in both the cadet and junior team events in the next two days.

A member of the 2017 Junior World Championship Team with Itkin, Tourette and Kumbla, Sam Moelis (Hewlett, N.Y.) came away from his third Junior Worlds with a top-16 finish.

Perfect in pools at 6-0, Moelis made quick work of his first two opponents, posting a 15-3 victory over Antonio Gojak (CRO) and a 15-6 win against Tian Wei Jonathan Au Eong (SGP).

Moelis’ table of 32 bout went down to the final touch as he overcame a 9-2 deficit to outtouch Mathias Danckwardt (DEN), 15-14.

In the 16, the 2015 Cadet World Champion lost to Kenta Suzumura (JPN), 15-13. Down 5-1, Moelis came back to tie the score at five. Tied at six, Suzumura took the next four points and Moelis couldn’t duplicate his table of 32 comeback, losing, 15-13

Click here to view complete results.

Top eight and U.S. results in the individual events are as follows:

Junior World Individual Men’s Foil Championships
1. Nick Itkin (Los Angeles, Calif.)

2. Tommaso Marini (ITA)
3. Sidarth Kumbla (San Jose, Calif.)
3. Grigoriy Semenyuk (RUS)
5. Pierre Loisel (FRA)
6. Kirill Borodachev (RUS)
7. Yuto Ueno (JPN)
8. Kenta Suzumura (JPN)

9. Geoffrey Tourette (Cupertino, Calif.)
11. Sam Moelis (Hewlett, N.Y.)

Junior World Individual Women’s Foil Championships
1. Yuka Ueno (JPN)
2. Martina Favaretto (ITA)
3. Lauren Scruggs (Ozone Park, N.Y.)
3. Eva Lacheray (FRA)
5. Sylvie Binder (Armonk, N.Y.)
6. Marta Ricci (ITA)
7. Jane Caulfield (CAN)
8. Yue Shi (CHN)

9. Delphine DeVore (Westport, Conn.
19. May Tieu  (Belle Mead, N.J.)

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