Mariel Zagunis - shown here in action at the 2005 NCAAs - added another gold medal to her collection by winning the 2005 Junior World Championship title (photo by Pete LaFleur).

Mariel Zagunis Wins Junior World Championship Title

March 26, 2005

LINZ, Austria – Notre Dame freshman sabre Mariel Zagunis (Beaverton, Ore.) won her sixth career world championship fencing title, taking home the gold on Saturday at the 2005 Junior and Cadet World Championships. Zagunis now has won nine world championship medals on the junior (under-20) and cadet (under-17) levels – with no other U.S. fencer in any age group ever coming close to earning as many world titles as Zagunis, who also made history in winning the 2004 Olympic gold medal.

(Note: a final season wrapup, with notes, quotes and more photos, from Notre Dame’s 2005 NCAA championship season – plus feature tributes to the four seniors on that team and a feature story chronicling the whirwind past 12 months for Zagunis – are coming soon to, stay tuned).

Zagunis defeated Russia’s Sophia Velikaia in a 15-9 gold-medal bout, after winning by the same score over Ukraine’s Ogla Kharlan in the semifinals. Kharlan earlier had knocked off U.S. fencer and 2004 Olympian Emily Jacobson in the round of 16, by a 15-6 margin (Jacobson, who fences for Columbia University, edged Zagunis last weekend in the NCAA title bout).

Three Notre Dame fencers – the most from any college program – qualified for the 2005 Junior World Championships, with the rest of the U.S. contingent including just nine other college fencers (two each from St. John’s and Penn State, plus one from Ohio State, Harvard, Princeton, Rutgers and Columbia). Sophomore sabre Patrick Ghattas (Beaverton, Ore.) will take to the strips tomorrow (March 27) in Linz while sophomore epeeist Amy Orlando (Brookline, Mass.) qualified in the fourth/alternate women’s epee spot but elected not compete.

Zagunis and the other three members of the U.S. women’s sabre squad will compete in the World Junior Championship team bouts on Tues., March 29, as will Ghattas and his teammates on Wed. the 30th. Real-time results will be available from while will include full results for the U.S. competitors.

The U.S. women’s sabre team includes Zagunis, Jacobsen and 15-year-old sensation Becca Ward, a product of the Portland-based Oregon Fencing Alliance elite sabre academy that has produced Zagunis, Ghattas, current ND sophomores Valerie Providenza (the ’04 NCAA champ and 4th-place finisher in ’05) and Angela Vincent and current Penn State standouts Marten Zagunis and Ian Farr. Penn State’s Caitlin Thompson, also a product of the OFA, is the alternate member of the U.S. team and thus can compete in the team bouts.

Ghattas – whose teammates include Luther Clement (St. John’s), Ben Igoe (Rutgers) and alternate Matt Zich (Penn State) – is 25th in the world rankings and is seeded 20th among an 85-fencer men’s sabre field at the Junior World Championships. His preliminary pool group includes four world-ranked fencers – #8 Zsolt Kocsis of Hungary, #59 Alejandro Nunez of Spain, # 104 Marinos Prevenios of Greece and # 248 Ricardo Alberto Bustamante of Argentina – plus unranked Vlastimil Vrtal of the Czech Republic and Maxi Oprzedek of Austria. The top 64 fencers will advance to the direct-elimination round.

Zagunis entered the Junior World Championships as the top seed in the 67-fencer women’s sabre field, followed by Jacobson and Ward. Her seven-fencer pool included four world-ranked fencers: #22 Alexandra Bujdoso of Germany, #23 Bianca Pascu of Romania, #162 Viktoriya Kotova of Kazakhstan and #201 Bonnie van Vuure of the Netherlands.

The bad luck of the draw produced a Zagunis-Ward matchup in the quarterfinals. The club teammates had traded victories throughout the ’04-’05 World Cup season and Zagunis came out on top in Saturday’s bout, advancing to the semifinals with a 15-13 win.

Zagunis first won a world championship gold medal in 2000, as a 15-year-old upstart with the U.S. women’s sabre team that won the 2000 Senior World Championship. She then won an unprecedented three world championship gold medals in 2001 – individually on the cadet and junior level, plus the junior team title – before helping win the junior world team title again in ’04 (followed by her ’05 victory in Linz).

Other top finishers in the women’s sabre competition (after Zagunis and Velikaia) included (3-9): Kharlan, Italy’s Mariangela Postiglione, Ward, Canada’s Julie Cloutier, France’s Carole Verge, Germany’s Tamata Biesinger and Jacobson.

In addition to those eight mentioned above, the other four college fencers on the 2005 U.S. Junior World Championship team include: Harvard foilist Emily Cross (who beat ND’s Alicja Kryczalo in the ’05 NCAA title bout), St. John’s foilist Benjamin Bratton, Princeton epeeist Tommie Hurme and Ohio State epeeist Christian Rivera. Ward and fellow OFA fencer Mera Keltner also are members of the U.S. cadet women’s sabre squad while Abigail Emerson – who trains at the New Hanpshire-based Seacoast Fencing club that produced ND women’s epee standout Kerry Walton (’02-’05) – is a member of the U.S. junior women’s foil team.

Orlando was in line to be a primary member of the U.S. junior women’s epee team but she missed out on a spot by a narrow margin, after Courtney Hurley notched a timely upset win over her sister Kelley in the title bout at the 2005 Junior Olympics (the final qualifying event for the U.S. team). The other member of the U.S. women’s epee team is Kerry Byerts, who has trained alongside Orlando at the Portland-based Northwest Fencing Center.

The World Championships are held every year by the Federation Internationale d’ Escrime (FIE), the international governing body of the sport of fencing. More than 100 countries are members of the FIE.