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Kenji Bravo Wins Cadet World Title, Leads Team USA to Four Foil Medals

04/08/2018, 11:45pm CDT
By Kristen Henneman

Team USA medalists May Tieu, Marcello Olivares, Delphine DeVore and Kenji Bravo. Photo Credit: Kristen Henneman.

(Verona, Italy) – Team USA continued its dominance in the foil events at the Junior and Cadet World Championships, winning four cadet foil medals on Sunday, including the gold by Kenji Bravo (San Francisco, Calif.)

In addition to Bravo being crowned the Cadet World Champion, Marcello Olivares (Cooper City, Fla.) and May Tieu (Belle Mead, N.J.) each earned the silver medal while Delphine DeVore (Westport, Conn.) took bronze.

With four of the six U.S. fencers claiming medals in the cadet event, Team USA now has seven medals in foil after winning three in the junior event on Saturday. Bravo’s win in the first-ever All-American men’s foil final at a Cadet Worlds also gives the American a sweep of the men’s foil individual championships as Nick Itkin (Los Angeles, Calif.) won gold in the junior competition on Saturday.

“In cadet, personally I think us three – me, Marcello and Andrew – are very dominant. I don’t think any other country has a trio that strong,” Bravo said. “Obviously, May killed it today with second, Delphine bronze and I know for them, also like me, it’s our last year in cadets, so it’s a really good way to end our career as cadet foilists.”

The foil events marked the end of the Cadet World Championships and Team USA finishes with seven medals, the most of any country. Host Italy ranks second with four.

Hoping to make his mark on the medal total, Bravo started his day 4-2 in pools and cruised past Giuliano Seminerio (AUT) in the table of 128, 15-2.

After defeating Lawrence Everett Tan (PHI), 15-7, Bravo took a one-point victory over Chih Chieh Chen (TPE) in the 32. Although Bravo trailed for most of the first period, he was able to pull even at six. Tied at nine, Bravo scored three straight to end the period, 12-9. He then went up 14-12, but Chen responded to tie the score at 14. But Bravo pulled through, winning 15-14.

“I knew exactly what I had to do. I just had to execute it,” Bravo said. “I think I was a little bit nervous because it was my first World Championships, first time on the colored strips, on the stage, so I wasn’t really fencing as well as I could’ve, but at the end of the day I was able to get the win.”

Tied at two with Jonas Winterberg-Poulsen (DEN) in the table of 16, Bravo would give up just two more points to claim a 15-4 victory.

Facing a 10-7 deficit against Armand Spichiger (FRA), Bravo scored three straight points to equalize. After leading 13-11 at the break, Spichiger cut Bravo’s lead to one at 14-13, but Bravo took the winning touch, 15-13, to guarantee a medal.

“[The key] was just keeping calm, being patient,” Bravo said. “I didn’t think I was being outfenced; I just wasn’t executing my actions and I was a little amped up, so I was rushing a little bit. But I kept calm, patient, took the bout one touch at a time to slowly close the lead and eventually take the lead and closed it out.”

Bravo came from behind to beat Diego Cervantes (MEX), 15-9, in the semifinals. Down 9-6, Bravo came back to tie the bout at nine and had the momentum from there, scoring six straight to earn the chance to fence for gold.

Bravo edged out teammate Olivares, 15-11, to win the Cadet World Championships. Close throughout, Olivares went up 4-0 to start, but Bravo tied the score up at six. Bravo then took the lead, going up by as many as four, but Olivares closed the gap to two at 13-11. Bravo finished strong though, scoring the final two points to put the bout away, 15-11.

“[Marcello is] one of the fiercest competitors out there. Right off the start, he was ready. He wanted it. Marcello’s a really tough one for me to fence. We’ve been fencing each other since we were like nine years old, so we know exactly what each other is going to do,” Bravo said. “This whole season, we’ve been pulling each other up. He would do better one tournament, then I would do better one tournament. We were both pulling each other up and it brought us to gold and silver at the World Championships, which is the ultimate goal.”

Team USA has now taken the cadet men’s foil title in three of the last four years with Geoffrey Tourette (Cupertino, Calif.) and Sam Moelis (Hewlett, N.Y.) winning the 2016 and 2015 titles, respectively. In addition, Bravo trains at the same club as Alexander Massialas (San Francisco, Calif.), who was the first U.S. fencer to win gold in men’s foil at Cadet Worlds in 2010.

“I don’t think it’s really kicked in [that I won] yet, but it’s been an amazing experience. This has been my first World Championships and to come home with a gold medal, it’s amazing, especially because this has been a dream of mine for such a long time,” Bravo said. “When I was nine years old, I went to the World Championships in Jordan with my brother [Nobuo] and there I saw Alexander Massialas win Cadet Worlds, so for seven years this is something that’s been on my mind always, every day I’m at practice. It’s something I’ve always dreamt of and now it’s a reality. It’s just a really, really good feeling for me.”

En route to his silver, Olivares went 6-0 in pools to take the No. 2 seed and earn a bye into the table of 64, where he controlled his bout against Malte Westesson (SWE), 15-5.

In the 32, Olivares opened the bout on a 6-0 run and was able to maintain that lead to earn a 15-9 victory over Jeonghyun Youn (KOR).

“Early in the day, I felt good,” Olivares said. “I just tried to concentrate with some music, relax and go touch by touch.”

The following round, Olivares bested Valerian Castanie (RUS), 15-11. Tied at five, Olivares put up five straight touches to take a 10-5 lead, a lead he would not relinquish.

Looking to secure a medal, Olivares overcame a 2-0 deficit by scoring four straight touches on Filippo Macchi (ITA). Macchi pulled within two at 9-7, but Olivares again responded, scoring three straight to go up 12-7, and he held onto the lead, winning, 15-10.

Olivares posted a 15-8 victory over Maciej Bem (POL) in the second semifinal. Up 8-6, Olivares scored three straight touches. Bem cut the lead to three at 11-8, but Olivares closed the bout on a 4-0 run to set the stage for the All-American final.

[The silver] feels good,” Olivares said. “I’m happy to be here and have the chance to fence at Worlds and the final with one of my teammates.”

In the women’s competition, Tieu, DeVore and Lauren Scruggs (Ozone Park, N.J.) returned to action after fencing in the junior event on Saturday and all three finished in the top eight on Sunday.

The two medals keep Team USA’s medal steak alive as the Americans have had a women’s foilist on the podium at every Cadet Worlds since 2008.

Tieu earned the No.1 seed out of pools and a bye into the table of 64 with a 6-0 record.

She gave up just three points against Phoebe Newton-Hughes (GBR), 15-3, before claiming a 15-9 victory over Samantha Kyle Catantan (PHI), 15-9. Up 10-9 after the second period, Tieu finished with five straight points.

In the table of 16 and quarter-finals, Tieu faced two opponents she had lost to in the past year.

The table of 16 saw Tieu face Anabella Acurero Gonzalez (VEN), who ended May’s day at the Junior Pan American Championships, 15-14, a month ago.

Deadlocked at eight, Tieu went on 5-0 run, and would win, 15-11.

Christelle Joy Ko (HKG) defeated May at the Cadet World Championships, 10-8, one year ago, but this year, Tieu dominated the bout, 12-3. Tied at two, Tieu scored four straight touches to take a 6-2 lead. After Ko scored her third touch, Tieu outscored Ko, 6-0.

“It was revenge time,” Tieu said. “That was my mindset for both of those bouts.”

In the semifinals, Tieu faced teammate DeVore. Tieu came out hot of out of the gate, going up 8-1 at the break, and she went on to win, 15-7.

“We fence each other all the time, so it depends on the day. We know each other. She caught up in the middle, and it was definitely a fight,” Tieu said. “I was mostly focusing on what I wanted to do and it was allowing her to finish what she wanted to do and then take my turn right after. That was basically what I wanted to do was go with my plan and keep focused.”

Tieu’s opponent in the final was Yuka Ueno (JPN), who won the Junior World Championships on Saturday. Ueno started 3-0 and went up 6-1 at the break. Tieu couldn’t recover and fell, 14-7.

“It feels good [to win silver],” May said. “It was a little bit of disappointment, of course, because I ended with a loss, but then it then it was like, ‘well this is Worlds and being here is cool enough.’”

DeVore went 5-1 in pools to move directly into the 64, where she easily handled her bout against Noha Hany (EGY), 15-6.

“I had fenced quite well yesterday, although I didn’t do exactly how I wanted to,” said DeVore who placed in the top 16 in the junior competition. “I knew that my fencing was looking good and I felt good, so I just wanted to feel that again and in pools, I was able to really let myself do that, which gave me confidence for the day.”

Down 7-5 to Lucia Tortelotti (ITA) in the 32, DeVore used a 6-1 run to go up 11-8 and win, 15-10.

In the 16, DeVore made quick work of her bout, defeating Karolina Zsoldosi (HUN), 15-7. Zsoldosi led early, 4-2, but DeVore went on a 13-3 run, all while taking just one minute off the clock.

In the quarter-finals, DeVore had a rematch with one of her opponents from the junior competition: Rebeca Candescu (ROU). DeVore took a 15-10 victory on Saturday and Sunday’s matchup would be even closer with DeVore taking a 15-13 victory in a thrilling bout.

With the score at 2-1, DeVore went on a 7-1 run to go up, 8-3, but Candescu kept with it, going on an 8-0 run of her own to regain the lead, 11-8. DeVore regrouped with three straight touches to tie the score at 11 and down 13-11 scored, the final four points of the match to come from behind for a victory.

“[Yesterday] I had taken a huge lead and she started to come back, and so today I was a little nervous for this bout because I knew that she could do more than what I’d seen yesterday,” DeVore said. “But in the junior event, I lost my top 16 bout, 15-13, and the score was 13-13 and I just blanked and rushed and I lost in like 20 seconds … It was horrible, and that was definitely something I thought about when it was 13-13 with this girl. Instead of rushing, I really took my time to set up those two touches.”

Scruggs, a bronze medalist in the junior event, cruised through her first two direct elimination rounds, besting Genevieve Clarke (IRL), 15-4, and Ariadna Castro (ESP), 15-6.

In the table of 16, Scruggs used a 6-0 start to defeat Tinney Mak (CAN), 15-7.

Taking on Ueno in the quarter-finals, Scruggs hung in there early, going into the first break tied at three. However, Ueno scored six straight touches to start the second period and go up 9-3, and Scruggs couldn’t muster a comeback, falling 15-6.

Andrew Zheng (Jericho, N.Y.) also competed in the men’s competition. After going 6-0 in pools, he lost to Dmitrii Osipov (RUS), 15-5.

Click here to view complete results.

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

Cadet World Individual Men’s Foil Championships
1. Kenji Bravo (San Francisco, Calif.)
2. Marcello Olivares (Cooper City, Fla.)

3. Maciej Bem (POL)
3. Diego Cervantes (MEX)
5. Filippo Macchi (ITA)
6. Jie Xu (CHN)
7. Armand Spichiger (FRA)
8. Pak Hei Chan (HKG)

36. Andrew Zheng (Jericho, N.Y.)

Cadet World Individual Women’s Foil Championships
1. Yuka Ueno (JPN)
2. May Tieu (Belle Mead, N.J.)
3. Delphine DeVore (Westport, Conn.)

3. Martina Favaretto (ITA)
5. Yukino Tosa (JPN)
6. Christelle Joy Ko (HKG)
7. Rebeca Candescu (ROU)
8. Lauren Scruggs (Ozone Park, N.J.)

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