June 9, 2014
Lizzie Mikes, Media Services Coordinator –
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The University of Notre Dame fencing program has eight NCAA titles. For some, that would be impressive, but what is perhaps more impressive is how many medals fencers with a connection to Notre Dame claimed at this year’s Pan American Championships. Six fencers across all weapons (four alums, one current member and one incoming freshman with Irish ties) took home ten medals after the past week’s competition. Here’s the rundown:
Perhaps the most highly-regarded sabreuse of our time, Mariel Zagunis finished second in the individual women’s sabre event. Heading into the 2014 Pan Ams, Zagunis was undefeated since 2009 and boasted a record five-straight gold medal wins. Add in the fact that since the Pan Am’s inception in `06 she had medaled every year, and it was no surprise she earned a bye into the round of 16 and a share of the No. 1 seed heading into the elimination rounds.
Zagunis handily defeated Eileen Grench (PAN) 15-5 and ousted Rossy Felix Lara (DOM) 15-11 in the quarterfinals. In her semifinal bout, Zagunis squared off with Team USA cohort Dagmara Wozniak, advancing 15-6. Wozniak went on to win the bronze medal, her third medal after a silver finish in 2013 and another bronze in 2012.
In the gold medal bout, Zagunis faced the other No. 1 seed, Maria Belen Perez Maurice (ARG). Maurice jumped out to an early 4-1 lead, but by the break Zagunis had shrunk the Argentinian’s lead to one, 8-7. Keeping the score within one touch throughout the second break, heading into the final period the score was tied at 13. Maurice scored twice to quickly end the bout 15-13 and clinch the gold, leaving Zagunis with her first silver since 2008.
Next up, two-time Olympian Gerek Meinhardt defended his gold medal in men’s foil. As the No. 2 world-ranked men’s foilist heading into the Pan Ams, Meinhardt earned the No. 3 seed heading into DE with a perfect 6-0 pool play record. He defeated Nicholas Gaviria (COL) 15-5 in the round of 32, and won over Antonio Leal (VEN) 15-10 to advance into the quarterfinals.
Brazil’s Ghislain Perrier proved no match for Meinhardt, losing 15-6. Perrier’s compatriot Guilherme Toldo also could not hold off the San Francisco product, as Meinhardt advanced into the title bout with a 15-8 win. Awaiting him there was longtime teammate and friend Alex Massialas.
Massialas took an early lead, remaining ahead 10-9 going in to the break. Afterwards, the two Americans were tied at 12 until Meinhardt scored three straight touches to secure the gold medal victory, the third Pan Am title in his career.
On the women’s side, foilist Lee Kiefer tied Zagunis’s record five-straight titles with a 15-12 win over Canadian Kelleigh Ryan. Kiefer earned the No. 1 seed after posting an undefeated pools record.
Awaiting Kiefer in the round of 16 was a familiar face, Irish teammate Adriana Camacho who was fencing for her homeland, Mexico. Kiefer dominated her Irish teammate, winning 15-3. In the quarterfinals, Sasia Loretta Van Erven Garcia (COL) put up more of a fight for the American, but Kiefer advanced into the medal rounds with a 15-11 victory.
With all four US foilists on the same side of the table, it was perhaps inevitable that Kiefer would square off with 2012 Olympic teammate Nzingha Prescod in the semifinals. Prescod pushed, but was unable to topple Kiefer, who advanced with a 15-6 victory. Kiefer struggled early on with Ryan in the title bout, but managed to tie the bout at 10 in the second period. Ryan scored two straight touches, but Kiefer answer with five unanswered points to win.
The last of the individual champions, women’s epeeist Courtney Hurley put on a show en route to her second Pan Am title. Hurley was the No. 6-ranked epeeist in the world heading into the event, and earned the No. 17 seed in the elimination rounds. She dominated Dayana Martinez 15-5 and edged out top-seeded Maria Martinez 15-14, where none other than older sister Kelley awaited her – the first of her three Team USA teammates that Courtney would face en route to winning the gold medal.
In 2013’s Pan Ams, Courtney and Kelley faced each other in the semifinals, with Courtney winning 15-14. This year was no different, as Courtney ousted Kelley out of medal contention with at 15-12 win.
In the semifinals, Hurley faced another native Texan in Anna Van Brummen. Van Brummen briefly made a comeback after initially being down 10-6, but Courtney held on to win the bout, 15-11. Awaiting the younger Hurley sister was the final member of Team USA, two-time Junior World medalist Katharine Holmes. Hurley led Holmes from the start 8-4, and went on to score three of the final four touches to win the bout easily, 15-6.
In the team competitions, the women’s epee, men’s foil, women’s foil, women’s sabre and men’s sabre teams all took home gold medals too, with the men’s epee team taking home bronze. To date, in team competition Team USA has completely dominated the Pan American Championships – men’s sabre stands as nine-time defending champions, the women’s foil squad is eight-time champs; the men’s foil team, seven-time champs, and the women’s epee, rotation 4-time champions (all are consecutive). Women’s sabre also claimed the gold in 2014 and has been a highly competitive squad for many years.