Oct. 7, 2009
ANTALYA, Turkey – Former Irish fencer Mariel Zagunis captured the 2009 women’s sabre world championship on Saturday afternoon, capping a dominant run through the final table of 64 to retain her place atop the women’s sabre world. With the win, the Beaverton, Ore. native adds to her growing list of accomplishments, having already captured gold medals at the 2004 and 2008 Olympic games. With the 2009 world Championship, Zagunis became the first American to medal at the event.
Several other fencers with Irish ties joined Zagunis at the World Championships, including Kelley and Courtney Hurley. The sisters, natives off San Antonio, Texas are representing the USA in women’s epee, while fellow Irish epeeist Ewa Nelip is representing her native Poland in epee. On the men’s side, former Irish foilist Ozren Debic fenced for Croatia, while current sophomore Gerek Meinhardt also competed for the USA in foil. Former epeeist Jan Tivenius, who competed for the Irish in 1983, compteted in men’s epee for Sweden, (finishing 64th).
Zagunis was the top seed in the final table of 64, having earned a high enough rank entering the event to skip the qualifying pool play stages. She proceeded to defeat Hye Lim Kim (15-12), Sevil Bunyatova (15-2) and countrywoman Daria Schneider (15-5) to advance to the final eight.
In the final table of eight, Zagunis knocked off Olena Khomrova of the Ukraine, 15-8 to advance to the semifinals. In the semis, Zagunis defeated fifth-seeded Carole Vergne of France, 15-12. In the Championship bout, Zagunis rolled to a 15-6 win over second-seeded Olga Kharlan of Ukraine to remain atop the women’s sabre field.
Zagunis enrolled at Notre Dame in the fall of 2004 and helped lead the Irish to the 2005 NCAA title. She competed with the Fighting Irish for two seasons and compiled an impressive resume that included the 2006 NCAA sabre crown and the 2005 national runner-up spot. Zagunis registered a 75-3 regular-season record with the Irish.
Meinhardt also had a high enough rank to advance directly to the final-64 as the 11th seed. In his first bout, he downed Gregory Koening of France, 15-12. Then, the 2008 NCAA Championship foil runner-up defeated Virgil Saliscan, 15-13. But in the round-or-16, Meinhardt fell to sixth-seeded Andrea Baldini of Italy, 15-7.
Ewa Nelip and Courney Hurley both advanced out of pool play in women’s epee to earn the 56th and 57th seeds, respectively, in the final 64. Hurley ended up finishing 66th, while Nelip finished 32nd.