Senior World silver medalist Eli Dershwitz and bronze medalist Courtney Hurley. Photo Credit: #bizziteam
(Wuxi, China) – The firsts were aplenty for Team USA on Sunday – the opening day of finals at the Senior World Championships as Eli Dershwitz (Sherborn, Mass.) and Courtney Hurley (San Antonio, Texas) won silver in men’s saber and bronze in women’s epee.
Dershwitz not only became the second U.S. fencer ever to win a Senior World medal in men’s saber, but climbed from No. 3 to No. 1 in the world rankings.
Following in the footsteps of 2015 Senior World silver medalist Daryl Homer (Bronx, N.Y.) and former World No. 1 Keeth Smart (Brooklyn, N.Y.), Dershwitz joined the ranks of USA Fencing greats while carving out a new place in history of his own – the first U.S. men’s saber fencer to win the Overall World Cup title.
The Rio Olympian added his Senior World medal as his fifth international podium of a season that included golds at the Algiers and Padua World Cups as well as bronze at the Seoul Grand Prix and gold at the Pan American Championships.
Only two other U.S. men have ever won the Overall World Cup title: foil fencers Alexander Massialas (San Francisco, Calif.) and Race Imboden (Brooklyn, N.Y.) Both members of the 2018 Senior World Team as well, Massialas earned the honors for both the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons with Imboden earning the title in 2014-15.
A bronze medalist in the team event at the 2012 Olympic Games, Hurley came through with the first individual medal for a U.S. women’s epee fencer at the Senior World Championships.
Hurley’s podium finish also marks the first individual medal for an epee fencer – either man or woman – and puts her in the company of U.S. women’s individual medalists at the Senior Worlds that includes saber fencers Mariel Zagunis (Beaverton, Ore.), Becca Ward (Washington, D.C.) and Sada Jacobson (Atlanta, Ga.) as well as foil fencers Iris Zimmermann (Rochester, N.Y.), Lee Kiefer (Lexington, Ky.) and Nzingha Prescod (Brooklyn, N.Y.)
Seeded third in the tournament, Dershwitz defeated Dmytro Pundyk (UKR), 15-4, in the table of 64 and Yinghui Yan (CHN), 15-12, in the table of 32.
He held off a late comeback by Benedikt Wagner (GER) in the table of 16 for a 15-14 win and fought his way back from a 0-5 deficit against two-time Olympic Champion Aron Szilagyi (HUN) in the quarters to defeat the Hungarian, 15-11.
In the semifinals, Junho Kim (KOR) looked to close out the win at 14-12, but Dershwitz came back with two touches to tie the score and a third to win the bout, 15-14, in front of a sold out stadium.
“I had an idea for the last touch and I told myself ‘If I get it, I get it, if I don’t, I don’t, but I’m going to lose doing my own actions … or I’m going to win doing my own move’ and it turned out that a little tricky action worked,” Dershwitz said. “Some might say that it was lucky, but I like to think it was planned out.”
In the finals, Dershwitz took on Junghwan Kim (KOR) – a bronze medalist at the 2016 Olympic Games and 2012 Olympic Team Champion.
Dershwitz kept the score tight in the first with Kim holding a one-touch lead at 8-7. Dershwitz tied the score at 10, but Kim pulled away to take the bout, 15-11.
Exhausted after the end of a 12-hour day of fencing, Dershwitz reflected on what it was like to reach the podium at just 22 years old.
“To be a Senior World medalist – it’s the biggest tournament of the biggest tournaments besides the Olympics – and to know that your name is going to be written down in the history books is amazing,” said the Harvard senior. “Standing on that podium and just seeing all the great fencers standing right next to me. I lost a really close bout in the final to a great fencer, Kim – an Olympic Champion and World Champion now. And other people got bronze, great athletes, great fencers. It feels amazing to be on that podium with them.”
Dershwitz will have a day to rest on Monday before the early rounds of the team event begin on Tuesday.
“I can’t really feel anything right now, I’m in so much pain – my back, my legs, everything,” he said. “But we’ve got three days to prepare for the final and I want to go home with a gold medal.”
Hurley, who competed in the preliminary rounds on Thursday to take the 35th seed in the table of 64, came away with several close wins to earn her position on the podium.
Known for her penchant for comeback wins and overtime scores, Hurley got two back-to-back that would make fencing fans’ hearts stop.
Hurley defeated Dora Kiskapusi (ESP), 15-12, in the 64 and went on to take her next two bouts by last-second wins, earning a comeback victory against Aleksandra Zamachowska (POL), 15-14, after being down, 13-9, and defeating Tatyana Andryushina (POL), 9-8, in overtime.
“I was really really happy with my fencing,” Hurley said. “So I think being ok with whatever happened really helped keep me calm.”
Hurley, who won silver at the final Grand Prix on the season in Cali, Colombia, became the second U.S. women’s epee fencer in history to compete in the quarter-finals where she defeated Coraline Vitalis (FRA), 15-10.
“After I won the quarter-final, I was just smiling for like an hour. I was just giddy. I was like a little school girl. It was really funny,” Hurley said.
In the semifinals, she fenced Ana Maria Popescu (ROU) – a 2016 Olympic Team Champion and 2008 Olympic silver medalist in the individual event.
The score between the two remained within a touch for the first two periods with Popescu holding an 8-7 lead at the second break. With the score tied at 13 in the final 10 seconds, Popescu hit a single with less than one second on the clock. Hurley flew at the Romanian, but couldn’t cover the distance in enough time and Popescu took the win, 14-13.
“I’m the first women’s epeeist to achieve any medal in the World Championships, but I’m more happy with fencing really really well today. I’ve had a rough season, so ending like this is amazing,” said Hurley whose world ranking jumped from No. 31 at the start of Worlds to No. 10 at the end of the tournament.
Hurley will return for the team event on Tuesday as the U.S. women aim to build on a season that included bronze and gold medals on the circuit this year.
“I think we have a really good chance. We’re really strong as a team – even stronger than we are in individual, so I think we have a really good chance of winning,” Hurley said.
Two members of Team USA earned placings in the top 16 with 2016 Olympian Kat Holmes (Washington, D.C.) earning a career-best 10th in epee and 2016 Olympic silver medalist Homer placing 15th in saber.
Leading Ayaka Shimookawa (JPN) by just one touch at 8-7 in the final minute of their table of 64 bout, Holmes took control of the bout, going on a 6-2 run to close with a 14-9 victory.
In the table of 32, Holmes dominated World No. 16 Hyein Lee (KOR), leading the bout, 7-1, in the second period. Lee cut Holmes’ lead to 7-5 before the American outscored Lee, 8-3, to end the bout at 15-8.
Fencing World No. 1 Mara Navarria (ITA) in the finals, Holmes was unable to overcome the eventual Senior World Champion and dropped the bout, 15-9.
Homer won his first two bouts easily against Konstiantyn Oronov (ISR) and Csanad Gemesi (HUN), taking the bouts by 15-4 and 15-8 scores, respectively.
In the table of 16, Fares Ferjani (TUN) led Homer, 8-2, after upsetting No. 2 seed Sanguk Oh (KOR), 15-8, in the table of 32. Homer tied the score at nine, but the call was overturned and awarded to Ferjani for a 10-8 lead. With Ferjani ahead, 14-9, Homer made a comeback with four straight touches to cut Ferjani’s lead to one at 14-13. Homer’s run would end when Ferjani scored again, taking the bout, 15-13.
Kelley Hurley (San Antonio, Texas), Courtney’s older sister and teammate at the 2012 and 2016 Olympic Games, entered the Senior Worlds as Team USA’s highest seed in women’s epee at thirteenth, but came one touch short of advancing past the 32.
Hurley defeated Beate Christmann (GER), 15-8, in the 64 to advance to the table of 32 against Maria Udrea (ROU). The Romanian pulled away with a 12-8 lead, but Hurley scored three singles and a fourth with 7.83 seconds on the clock to send the bout to overtime. Udrea took the first single, however, and finished with a 13-12 win.
After being named to his second Senior World Team as a replacement just a week ago after Ben Natanzon (Manalapan, N.J.) was injured in training, Geoff Loss (Laguna Beach, Calif.) went 5-0 in pools on Thursday and was poised for an upset of eventual bronze medalist Junho Kim (KOR) when he tied the score at 12 in the second period. Kim finished the bout, 15-13, however, and Loss was eliminated.
Top eight and U.S. results are as follows:
Women’s Epee Individual Senior World Championships
1. Mara Navarria (ITA)
2. Ana Maria Popescu (ROU)
3. Laura Staehli (SUI)
3. Courtney Hurley (San Antonio, Texas)
5. Olena Kryvytska (UKR)
6. Emese Szasz-Kovacs (HUN)
7. Katrina Lehis (EST)
8. Coraline Vitalis (FRA)
10. Kat Holmes (Washington, D.C.)
20. Kelley Hurley (San Antonio, Texas)
96. Natalie Vie (Phoenix, Ariz.)
Men’s Saber Individual Senior World Championships
1. Junghwan Kim (KOR)
2. Eli Dershwitz (Sherborn, Mass.)
3. Kamil Ibragimov (RUS)
3. Junho Kim (KOR)
5. Bongil Gu (KOR)
6. Andras Szatmari (HUN)
7. Aron Szilagyi (HUN)
8. Fares Ferjani (TUN)
15. Daryl Homer (Bronx, N.Y.)
35T. Geoff Loss (Laguna Beach, Calif.)
65. Andrew Mackiewicz (Westwood, Mass.)
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