April 17, 2012
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Headlined by two-time Olympic gold medalist Mariel Zagunis, the University of Notre Dame fencing team will be well represented by a contingent of six past, present and future Irish fencers competing for the United States at the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London, England.
While not being able to take part in a team draw at the 2012 Olympic Games, Zagunis earned an individual bid to compete in the sabre direct elimination bracket after qualifying as the top-ranked American and second-ranked sabreuse in the world. She returns to the Olympics in search of defending her back-to-back gold medals earned at the ’04 and ’08 Games.
On the international season, Zagunis finished with 258 points toward her ranking, including earning six top-three results. Her season was highlighted by gold medal performances at the Orleans Grand Prix and Reno Pan-American Championships, as well as silver medal showings at the New York World Cup and Catania World Cup.
Joining Zagunis in London are former Irish epeeist Kelley Hurley and her sister, current Irish fencer Courtney Hurley. Rounding out the group are men’s foilists Gerek Meinhardt and Race Imboden and women’s foilist Lee Kiefer.
K. Hurley and Meinhardt earned replacement spots on the U.S. team as a result of finishing as the fourth-highest ranked fencers on the United States team. Only the top three individuals on each of the weapon groups qualify for the individual medalist draw, meaning Meinhardt and Hurley will only be participating with Team USA in the team draw, a field that will include the eight best teams from across the world.
Imboden, who earned a spot on the three-man rotation due to his high-level international results, did not fence at the final event used for qualification to the Olympic team, the Division I National Championships in Virginia Beach, Va. He concluded the qualifying season as the sixth ranked senior in the world and second ranked American.
On the year, Imboden posted 129 points toward his international ranking, highlighted by seven top-25 finishes and three top-10 performances. Imboden enjoyed his best finishes at the Reno Pan-American Championships and the Paris World Cup, claiming first and third, respectively.
Meinhardt needed a strong showing to earn the replacement spot on the travel team, claiming that spot after knocking off fellow U.S. team hopeful David Willette (15-13) in the semifinals of the National Championships. He concluded his year as the 25th-ranked senior in the world and fourth-best American with 70 total points to his international ranking. Meinhardt’s best finish came at the Reno Pan-American Championship with a third-place result.
C. Hurley, much like Imboden, was a lock for the Olympic team due to her high international results but chose to compete at the National Championships, claiming gold with a 15-13 victory over her sister, Kelley. She also clinched Kelley a berth on the national team as a replacement athlete after defeating Lindsay Campbell (15-6) in the round of 16.
Courtney concluded her international season ranked as the 16th senior and top American after completing the qualification period with 93 points toward her ranking. In addition to her gold at the Division I National Championship, Hurley recorded a runner-up result at the Reno Pan-American Championship.
Kelley wrapped her qualifying period as the 33rd-ranked senior and fourth-best American with 56 points toward her ranking. She secured 48 of those points after claiming the gold at the Reno Pan-American Championship.
Kiefer, an incoming freshman to the Irish, secured an Olympic spot for Notre Dame by finishing as the top ranked American in women’s foil after putting together a solid 2011 international year that saw her claim a Senior World medal along the way. She is the seventh-ranked senior in the world and earned that spot after claiming 126 points on the year. Kiefer’s best finishes included winning gold at the Reno Pan-American Championship and capturing bronze at the Catania World Cup.
Fencing competition at the Olympics takes place July 28-August 5 at the ExCeL as 212 fencers will be competing in team and individual events in search of claiming a medal in one of the 10 medal events.