July 25, 2006
Fencing sabre standout and 2004 Olympic gold medalist Mariel Zagunis – who will begin her junior year at Notre Dame next month – recently won the Las Vegas Grand Prix to conclude an impressive 2006 season on the World Cup circuit that earlier included a pair of second-place finishes, two bronze medals and two other World Cup/Grand Prix finishes in the top-10. Zagunis finished atop the annual women’s sabre World Cup rankings and will receive the prestigious World Cup trophy in Turin, Italy, at the 2006 FIE Fencing World Championships (Aug. 29-Sept. 7). She is just the second United States fencer – male or female, in any of the three weapons – ever to win a World Cup total-points trophy, also earlier winning three Junior World Cup titles from 2002-04. The U.S. Olympic Committee recognized Zagunis as one of its three honorees for June Athlete of the Month, along with swimmer Michael Phelps and track-and-field athlete Lashinda Demus.
In other recent news, 12 current Notre Dame fencers and three alums of the program (plus one incoming standout) were among more than 3,400 competitors at the USFA’s annual Summer Nationals, held June 30-July 9 in Atlanta. Kelley Hurley – a prospective Olympian who will begin her college fencing career at Notre Dame in 2006-07 – won the Open Elite title in women’s epee, defeating her future ND teammate Amy Orlando in the championship bout. Notre Dame rising seniors Patrick Ghattas and Valerie Providenza, who train alongside Zagunis at the Portland-based Oregon Fencing Alliance, turned in solid sixth-place finishes in their respective Open Elite sabre competitions at the 2006 Summer Nationals. (See full report at end of this release.)
“Mariel Zagunis continues to achieve tremendous accomplishments on the international fencing level, which is great tribute to her hard work and the training she has with her longtime club coach Ed Korfanty, in addition to her work here at Notre Dame,” said Notre Dame head coach Janusz Bednarski.
“Mariel’s ability to maintain her performance at such an elite level, while also attending at a prestigious university such as Notre Dame, shows that individuals can achieve great success in both of these areas. Notre Dame has provided great support systems for Mariel that allow her to continue pursuing her fencing dreams while also getting first-class education. We expect to have the same type of success for fencers like Kelley Hurley when they arrive at Notre Dame with hopes of being Olympic champion.”
Incoming Notre Dame fencer Kelley Hurley won the women’s epee title at the 2006 USFA Summer Nationals, defeating her future ND teammate Amy Orlando in the title bout.
Zagunis opened the World Cup/Grand Prix season by finishing second at events in both Orleans, France (Feb. 4), and Budapest, Hungary (Feb. 25). She then placed 10th at the World Cup in Lamezia Terme, Italy (March 11, just days before winning the NCAA women’s sabre title) and added another 10th-place finish shortly after completing final exams at Notre Dame, on May 27 at the Grand Prix in Hanoi, Vietnam (where she also helped the U.S. win the women’s sabre team competition). An impressive two-week stretch then saw Zagunis close out her World Cup title by placing third in both Klagenfurt, Germany (June 4) and Vancouver (June 11) before winning the Las Vegas Grand Prix on June 16.
The Federation International d’Escrime (FIE) serves as the international governing body of fencing and annually holds a series of World Cup competitions around the globe. The athlete with the best series of results from those competitions is crowned the year-end World Cup Champion. The first-place finish in Las Vegas solidified the top spot for Zagunis in the World Cup standings, giving her 198 points for a 12-point cushion on runner-up Sophia Velikaia of Russia (186). The top-eight finishers in the World Cup standings reinforce the status of the United States and Russia as the premier nation’s for elite women’s sabre talent, as Russia’s Leonore Perrus (162) and Ekaterina Fedorkina (156) finished fourth and fifth in the standings while the USA’s Sada Jacobson (122) and Becca Ward (120) rounded out the top-8. The other top finishers included Poland’s Bogna Jozwiak (3rd; 168) and France’s Anne-Lise Touya (6th; 146). Ward also trains alongside Zagunis at the Oregon Fencing Alliance.
The FIE also sponsors a “rolling” system of world rankings that includes some results from the previous year’s World Cups while also taking into account the World Championship results (which are not factored into the World Cup ranking). Zagunis also holds a high spot in the FIE overall (or rolling) rankings, currently standing third with 222 points. Velikaia holds the top spot in those rankings (242), followed by Touya (242), Zagunis, France’s Leonore Perrus (186) and Jozwiak.
Additional notes on Zagunis and other Notre Dame fencers who have been active in recent top competitions follow below:
WORLD CUP TOTAL-POINTS TITLE – Former Yale fencer Sada Jacobson, a teammate of Zagunis on the USA women’s sabre team, is the only other fencer ever to win a World Cup total-points trophy (doing so in 2003, ’04 and again in ’05) … the women’s sabre World Cup circuit made its debut in 1998-99 … Zagunis won the Junior World Cup circuit in 2002, 2003 and again in 2004, becoming the only U.S. fencer ever to win the Junior World Cup title more than once … her career highlights also include the 2004 Olympic gold medal, two trips to the NCAA title bout (’06 champion, ’05 runner-up) and a total of 12 medals on the World Championship level: gold at the 2001 and ’05 Juniors (U-19) and ’01 Cadet (U-17); silver at the ’04 Juniors; bronze at the 2000 cadet; team gold at the 2000 and ’05 World Championships and three World Juniors (’01, ’04, ’05); and team silver at the 2000 Juniors, ’02 Juniors and 2004 World Championships … she became the first U.S. fencer (male or female) in 100 years to win an Olympic gold medal, was the youngest fencer ever to win an FIE gold medal and also become the youngest fencer ever to win three FIE medals in one season … Zagunis holds the record for most medals in junior and cadet World Cup championships (8) and became the first fencer in the history of the sport to hold more than two World Championship titles in one season (’01 junior and cadet individual titles, plus ’01 junior team champs).
LAS VEGAS GRAND PRIX (June 16) – The thrilling final saw the 3rd-seded Zagunis defeat Italy’s Bianco in a 15-14 title bout … Zagunis faced a tough path to the top of what possibly was the toughest field of the World Cup season … she fenced her club teammate Caitlin Thompson in the round-of-32 before topping another American (Eileen Hassett, 15-7) in the round-of-16 … two wins over French fencers followed, versus Perrus in the quarterfinals (15-14) and 2nd-seeded Touya in a 15-12 semifinal battle … Russia’s Fedorkina was the other semifinalist while others in the top-8 included Russia’s Velikaia, U.S. teammate Ward and the Ukraine’s Olga Kharlan … Zagunis also helped the USA women’s sabre team go on to an emotional win in the Las Vegas team event, with the United States ultimately edging rival Russia for the title (others on the team included Ward, Thompson and Sada Jacobson) … the #2-seeded USA beat Canada in their first match and then rallied past 6th-seed Ukraine (45-33) in the semifinals before topping top-seeded Russia in a 45-44 thriller (Russia beat Korea in the other semifinal).
VANCOUVER WORLD CUP (June 11) – USA fencers were well-represented at this event, as Ward defeated Russia’s Svetlana Kormilitsyna in the final bout while Zagunis and Sada Jacobson were the semifinalists (tying for third) … other top-8 finishers in the strong field included Russia’s Velikaia (5th), France’s Perrus (6th) and Mary Solenne (8th) and former Ohio State standout and England native Louise-Bond Williams (7th) … another member of the ND fencing programs also competed in Vancouver, as Providenza placed 29th.
KLAGENFUT WORLD CUP (June 4) – The Americans held down four of the top-8 spots in this Germany event, with Ward beating Zagunis in the semifinals and Sada Jacobson in the final (Thompson placed 8th) … other top finishers included Germany’s Alexandra Bujdoso (3rd), Poland’s Aleksandra Socha (5th), Romania’s Andrea Pelei (6th) and Hungary’s Orsolya Nagy.
Mariel Zagunis – pictured during the 2004 Olympic gold-medal bout – closed out the 2006 World Cup circuit in impressive fashion, with that 12-day stretch including 3rd-place finishes in Klagenfurt, Germany, and Vancouver before winning the Las Vegas Grand Prix (photo by Serge Timacheff).
HANOI GRAND PRIX (May 27) – This large event in Vietnam saw Zagunis combine with Thompson, Sada Jacobson and former Columbia fencer Emma Baratta to win the women’s sabre team competition … Zagunis placed 10th while Jacobson won the individual title, followed by Russia’s Fedorkina, Poland’s Jozwiak, Perrus of France, China’s Xue Tan (the 2004 Olympic silver medalist), Korea’s Shin Mi Lee, Germany’s Sibylle Klemm and Japan’s Madoka Hisagae.
LAMEZIA TERME WORLD CUP (March 10) – Zagunis was competing at this event in Italy before returning to the U.S. to compete in the NCAAs … she placed 10th, behind France’s Perrus (1st) and Touya (5th), Italy’s Alessandra Lucchino (2nd), Gioia Marzocca (6th) and Bianco (8th), China’s Tan (3rd), Russia’s Margarita Joukova (3rd), Fedorkina (7th) and Velikaia (9th).
BUDAPEST GRAND PRIX (Feb. 25) – Hungary was the site for one of the top World Cup finishes by Zagunis in 2006, as she finished second after ending as the #5 seed … a 15-10 win over China’s Tan (in their first meeting since the 2004 Olympic final) sent Zagunis on to the quarterfinals, where she defeated Japan’s Sakura Kaneko in a 15-10 bout … Zagunis then ended her semifinal bout on a “stop hit” that yielded a 15-14 win over the Ukraine’s Olga Kharlan … the final bout in the 114-fencer competitions featured two competitors who later would finish atop the World Cup standings, with Russia’s Velikaia posting the 15-10 win … despite the absence of Zagunis and Thompson in the team competition, the USA women’s sabre squad still claimed the runner-up medal (behind Russia) in Budapest, with the competitors including Sada Jacobson, Dagmara Wozniak, Ward and Baratta) … Poland’s Jozwiak was the other semifinalist while other top-8 finishers included Italy’s Bianco, Germany’s Bujdoso and the Ukraine’s Nina Kozlova.
ORLEANS WORLD CUP (Feb. 4) – The first leg for Zagunis in her World Cup championship came in France, where she reached the final bout before losing to France’s Touya (15-13), in a matchup featuring the 2004 Olympic champion versus the 2005 world champion … nearly 3,000 spectators were on hand to watch the Zagunis-Touya match … she earlier had stretched to a 12-9 lead in the semifinals before topping Italy’s Marzocca (15-11) … the quarterfinals saw Zagunis post a comfortable win over Poland’s Olga Socha (15-8), avenging her loss to Socha in the final bout at the 2005 Las Vegas Grand Prix … her first-round matchup had produced a narrow win over fellow American Alexis Jemal, followed by a win over Italy’s Postiglione and France’s Perrus in the round-of-16.
Amy Orllando will enter her senior year at Notre Dame on the heels of a runner-up finish in the women’s epee competition at Summer Nationals (photo by Matt Cashore).
SUMMER NATIONALS (June 30-July 9) – The huge annual USFA tournament featured nearly 3,500 competitors in 95 total events, spanning eight age groups, four skill levels (plus wheelchair and team competition) and all three weapons … various members of the Notre Dame fencing program – current, former and future – competed in the Elite Open events and the Under-19 bouts:
â€¢ Women’s Epee – ND signee Hurley defeated rising senior and Irish team captain Orlando in the epee final … Hurley’s younger sister Courtney placed 3rd while former ND fencer Becca Chimahusky placed 42nd … the 45-fencer epee field featured several familiar names from the college fencing ranks, including former Princeton fencers Eleanor Leighton, Maya Lawrence, Lindsay Campbell and Kira Hohonsee, Kaela Brendler (Ohio State), Lauren Willock (NYU), Keri Byerts (Penn State signee), Tess Finkel (Columbia newcomer) and Erica Korb (formerly of Yale) … Kelley Hurley also won the U-19 women’s epee title while ND rising sophomore Kim Montoya was 17th (the 92-fencer field also included Byerts and Finkel).
Notre Dame rising senior and two-time NCAA sabre runner-up Patrick Ghattas placed sixth at the Summer Nationals (photo by Pete LaFleur).
â€¢ Men’s Sabre – Ghattas turned in a solid 6th-place finish, behind 2004 Olympic team members Ivan Lee and Keeth Smart (both formerly of St. John’s), James Williams, another member of the ’04 Olympic team (Ohio State alum Jason Rogers) and Daniel Bak … ND sophomore-to-be Bill Thanhouser placed 15th … the fencers in the 7th-14th spots included noteworthy fencers from the college ranks, such as Tim Morehosue (Brandeis; alternate on ’04 Olympic team), Luther Clement (St. John’s), Ben Igoe (Rutgers) and Penn State’s Matthew Zich … both Ghattas and Thanhouser finished ahead of several other noteworthy competitors in the 47-fencer field, including: PSU’s Ian Farr, former OSU fencer and three-time NCAA champ Adam Crompton, Stanford’s Teddy Levitt, OSU’s Jason Paul, Nijmy Cadet (SJU) and Paul Reyfman (formerly of Columbia).
â€¢ Women’s Sabre – Providenza’s 6th-place finish in the 36-fencer field trailed Olympian Sada Jacobson, Sarah Borrmann, former NCAA champ Alexis Jemal (who fenced at Rutgers) and her club teammates Ward and Thompson (who fences for Penn State) … Providenza finished ahead of several top fencers, including former Columbia standout Baratta and OSU’s Eileen Grench … ND rising sophomore Ashley Serrette placed 49th in the U-19 women’s sabre (field of 71).
â€¢ Men’s Foil – Sophomore-to-be Mark Kubik finished 16th in the 43-fencer field that was headlined by the likes of OSU’s Andreas Horanyi, Jon Tiomkin (formerly of SJU), former Columbia fencer Jed Dupree, Jesse Schiblia (formerly of Rutgers) and Penn’s Ron Berkowsky (who finished one spot ahead of Thanhouser) … others of note who finished behind Kubik included Columbia’s Scott Sugimoto, former SJU fencer Henry Kennard, former PSU regular Chris Miller, NYU’s Alex Kao and his younger brother Steve Kubik (39th) … the Kubik brother also competed in the U-19 men’s foil (Mark was 6th and Steve 11th, in a field of 145), with the top-5 top finishers including Gerek Meinhardt, Forrest MacDougall, Kurt Getz, Benjamin Parkins and Ariel DeSmet.
Notre Dame three-time All-American Valerie Providenza matched the finish of her classmate and fellow Oregon Fencing Alliance product by finishing sixth in the women’s sabre bouts at Summer Nationals (photo by Pete LaFleur).
â€¢ Women’s Foil – Rising sophomore Adi Nott placed 17th, behind the likes of former NCAA champions Emily Cross (now at Harvard), Iris Zimmermann (formerly of Stanford), 2004 Olympian Erinn Smart (who fenced at Columbia), Sam Nemecek (Northwestern), former ND standout Andrea Ament, high schooler Doris Willette and former OSU fencer Hanna Thompson (16th) … the 50-fencer field also included Tam Najm (formerly of PSU) … Nott also placed 19th in the U-19 women’s foil while her ND classmate Emilie Prot was 68th (that 112-fencer field included Willette and Nemecek).
â€¢ Men’s Epee – Junior-to-be and South Bend native Greg Howard placed 37th while rising senior Patrick Gettings was 40th in the 62-fencer field that included all four members of the 2004 Olympic team: former Air Force fencer Seth Kelsey, ND four-time All-American Jan Viviani (14th), Cody Mattern (who has not fenced collegiately) and Princeton alum Soren Thompson … others of note in the field included another Princeton alum (Ben Solomon), OSU’s Christian Rivera, Harvard’s Benji Ungar and SJU’s Benjamin Bratton … both ND fencers finished ahead of Air Force All-American Jason Stockdale.
Bill Thanhouser had one of the top U.S. finishes at the 2006 Junior World Championships, placing 14th in the under-20 men’s sabre bouting (photo by Matt Cashore).
JUNIOR/CADET WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS (April 12-17; Taebek City, South Korea) – Notre Dame was one of three colleges to send multiple fencers (Thanhouser and Nott) to the 2006 World Juniors as members of Team USA (the 24-fencer U.S. junior contingent included nine collegians and 15 high-school-aged fencers) … Thanhouser turned in one of the top U.S. finishes, placing 14th in the junior/U-20 men’s sabre competition after a 15-7 loss to eventual semifinalist Nikolay Kovalev of Russia … the top-8 finishers in the 79-fencer junior men’s sabre field were as follows: Dmytro Boiko (Ukraine), Luigi Samele (Italy), Kovalev, Benoit Lamboley (France), Kye Hwan Kim (Korea), Seppe van Holsbeke (Belgium), Ziao Liu (China) and Jakub Ceranowicz (Poland) … Thanhouser earlier had placed third at World Cup in Logrono, Spain (Jan. 28) … Thanhouser combined with Levitt, Zich and high-schooler Andrew Bielen to place 10th in the World Junior men’s sabre team competition (the top-4 were Russia, Ukraine, Germany and China) … Nott fencer only in the team bouts but helped produce a big result, combining with Cross, Willette and youngster Lindsay Knauer to place 4th … the U.S. women’s foilists opened with a strong win over Hong Kong (45-12) before edging Hungary (45-43) and then losing to eventual champion Italy in the semifinals (45-34) … Germany then topped the U.S. in the third-place match (45-31), with Italy beating Russia in the championship matchup … ND signee Hurley also competed in Korea, losing in the round-of-64 (15-12, vs. Romania’s Madalina Alexandra Iordachioiu) to finish 46th … Hurley, her sister Courtney, Finkel and Christa French lost their team match in the round-of-32 (Courtney won the cadet/U-17 title and placed 35th in the junior/U-20 bouting).
FIE WORLD RANKINGS – In the overall “rolling” FIE world rankings (which include some 2005 results and also factor in World Championship results), Zagunis currently is 3rd with 222 points, behind Russia’s Velikaia (264) and France’s Touya (242), with two other Americans in the top-8 (Sada Jacobson 7th and Ward 8th) … Providenza has not fenced in many international events this year, with a 129 ranking (13th among U.S. women’ sabre fencers) … Thanhouser holds a world ranking of 19th among junior men’s sabre fencers (U-20) while Merrick Zagunis (younger brother of Mariel) is 231st in limited action … both Hurley sisters are among the top-60 in the world women’s junior epee rankings (Kelley 57th, Courtney 59th), with Courtney also 58th in the overall world women’s epee ratings (Kelley is 67th and Orlando 432nd, due to minimal bouting in recent months) … Nott also has not fenced many recent international events (she ranks 215th in the world for junior women’s foilists).
Adi Nott helped the U.S. women’s foil team post an impressive 4th-place finish at the World Junior Championships (photo by Pete LaFleur).
USFA NATIONAL RANKINGS – Zagunis (1st) and Providenza (11th) are among the top-rated women’s sabre fencers in the U.S. Fencing Association rankings … the Hurley sisters (Courtney 1st, Kelley 2nd) sit atop the USFA women’s epee rankings while Orlando is 9th and Chimahusky – a former walk-on at ND – ranks 34th (former ND fencer Kerry Walton has not been competing recently due to her wedding) … Nott is the 15th and Ament 41st on the women’s foil charts … Ghattas is 10th and Thanhouser 23rd in the men’s sabre rankings (Marten Zagunis, older brother of Mariel and a former fencer at Penn State, is 28th) … other ND men’s fencers in the USFA overall rankings include alum Viviani (9th) and Howard (47th) in epee, plus Kubik in foil (32nd, his brother Steve is 39th) … here are the USFA rankings for the junior/under-20 level: Courtney Hurley (1st), Kelley Hurley (2nd), Montoya (21st) in women’s epee. Nott (7th) and Prot (40th) in women’s foil, and the Kubik brothers in men’s foil (mark 11th, Steve 17th, with Merrick Zagunis ranked 46th in men’s sabre.
FENCING WEBSITE LINKS – Here are some helpful links to keep up with fencing on the national and international levels: