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Mariel Zagunis Wins Gold at Absolute Fencing Gear® Korfanty World Cup

05/04/2014, 10:45pm CDT
By Nicole Jomantas

Mariel Zagunis and Coach Ed Korfanty. Photo Credit: Nicole Jomantas


Mariel Zagunis. Photo Credit: K. Dao Photography

(Chicago, Ill.) – Fencing at the tournament named for her coach, Mariel Zagunis (Beaverton, Ore.) claimed her second individual title of the year at the Absolute Fencing Gear® Korfanty World Cup at the University of Illinois at Chicago on Saturday.

Zagunis earned one of three top-eight finishes by Team USA as Dagmara Wozniak (Avenel, N.J.) and Ibtihaj Muhammad (Maplewood, N.J.) placed sixth and seventh, respectively.

Zagunis opened with two bouts against members of the French national team – Sara Balzer and Saoussen Boudiaf.

After a 15-9 win over Balzer, Zagunis led Boudiaf, 14-8, in the second period, but the 2013 Junior World silver medalist staged a comeback to tie the bout at 14. Zagunis scored the final touch, however, to take the win, 15-14.

Zagunis’s table of 16 bout wouldn’t get nearly that close as she defeated 2014 Junior World Champion Anna Marton (HUN), 15-7.

Wozniak won her first two bouts of the day by 15-12 scores against Nora Garam (HUN) and Shinhui Choi (KOR).

In the table of 16, Wozniak defeated two-time Junior World medalist Manon Brunet (FRA), 15-11, to set up a final against Zagunis.

Wozniak led the bout against her friend and teammate, 8-6, at the break. Although Wozniak was up, 10-7, in the second period, Zagunis scored four straight to take the lead, 11-10. Zagunis scored four of the next six touches to win the bout, 15-12.

“I knew that it’s Mariel Zagunis. She’s a very aggressive fencer and you can’t sleep on one touch. In the first half, I think I was able to dominate more and then that switched up and that was my fault,” Wozniak said. “Fencing her, I really wanted her to go back, but she was stubborn and kept coming forward. She didn’t give me that room to kind of do what I wanted to do and, in the end, she comes out on top because she was much stronger than I was, so I know what I’ve gotta work on.”

Although this is the first time, the two teammates have fenced each other this season, bouts between U.S. teammates on the circuit are common in women’s saber where four Americans have won individual podiums this season.

“It’s always unfortunate when teammates have to come up against each other. And a lot of times it happens where you have a competition where you have to fence one or two or even three of your teammates, but, you know, you just have to take it like they’re just any other opponent and we understand that and we leave everything on the strip,” Zagunis said. “Daga fenced really well today and I’m looking forward to getting together with her tomorrow and doing really well in the team event.”

In the semifinals, Zagunis fenced Irene Vecchi (ITA) – a 2013 Senior World bronze medalist.

Up, 8-7, at the break, Zagunis held Vecchi to just one touch out of the next seven to take a 14-8 lead. Vecchi scored twice more, but Zagunis closed it out, 15-10.

“Sometimes you just a little bit of a warmup,” Zagunis said of her first half. “I had a couple hours of a break to relax and stuff, but sometimes you need to get a little more woken up, so I just needed to use that first half to feel it out, warm it up and Ed did give me some helpful advice for the second half which I took and it worked so it’s good that I was able to pull it out in the second half.”

Zagunis’s gold medal final opponent would be Viktoriya Kovaleva – the Russian who upset 2013 Senior World Champion Olga Kharlan (UKR) in the quarter-finals.

Again, Zagunis took an 8-7 lead at the break and went on to defeat the Russian, 15-13.  

“I saw her fence against Lembach in the semifinals. This is her best result, so I haven’t really gotten a chance to see her fence that often, but she did really great today and she has a different tempo than I was used to, but I was glad I was able to pull it out,” Zagunis said.

The gold medal win holds special significance for Zagunis as it is her first individual title victory at this tournament since it was renamed as the Korfanty Cup in honor of U.S. Women’s Saber Team Coach Ed Korfanty (Portland, Ore.)

“It feels like it was about time for me to win the Korfanty Cup and do it for Team USA, but for Ed also since it’s his namesake competition. I felt really good today and it’s good to get that second win of the season. It’s always good to build that confidence,” Zagunis said.

For Muhammad, Saturday marked the second time she has placed in the top eight at an international event this season after taking bronze at the Moscow Grand Prix in March.

After a 15-9 win over Xinting Yun (CHN), Muhammad blasted through her table of 32 bout against Katarzyna Kedziora (POL), 15-3.

“Kedziora is a strong competitor. I fenced her last year in Belgium and won a close match, 15-14, after being down, 5-13,” Muhammad said. “I had a game plan going into the bout and wanted to stick to it no matter what the score.”

In the table of 16, Muhammad defeated Ekaterina Dyachenko (RUS), a 2013 Senior World silver medalist in both individual and team, by a score of 15-11.

Muhammad fell just two touches short of her second individual medal this season when she lost her quarter-final bout to Vecchi.

“Vecchi fenced well today. She had some tough bouts to get through before me,” said Muhammad. “We’ve gone back forth these last few meetings, but I’ll be ready for her next time.”

The win puts Muhammad in an excellent position to qualify for her fifth Senior World Team – a feat that became more challenging this year when Muhammad was battling injuries.

“Having suffered an injury early in the season, I struggled a bit in the beginning,” Muhammad said. “I knew that the competition this weekend would be challenging, but felt mentally prepared to perform at my best.”

Zagunis, Wozniak, Muhammad and Eliza Stone (Chicago, Ill.), who was eliminated by Brunet in the table of 64, will fence in the team competition on Sunday where the Americans will attempt to defend the title they won at this event in 2013.

“The funny thing is that last year I helped make the comeback against Russia to make the final, but then I had to fly home before the gold medal match because I had finals, so my mom was on the phone with me and giving me the touch by touch play by play, but I’m excited. It’s another team tournament, so whoever’s in our way better watch out,” Wozniak said.

Fencing at her first Senior World Cup, 16-year-old Regina O’Brien (Wellesley Hills, Mass.) had a breakthrough performance with her 15th place result in Chicago.

O’Brien defeated Fei Li (CHN), 15-11, in the table of 64 and edged 2009 Pan American medalist Eileen Grench (PAN), 15-14, in the 32.

The cadet fencer’s run came to an end, however, when she lost to Kovaleva, 15-3, in the table of 16.

Two-time Senior World team medalist Daria Schneider (New York City, N.Y.) won her opening bout on Saturday against teammate Claudia Kulmacz (Upper Saddle River, N.J.), 15-9, but lost to Kharlan, 15-7, in the table of 32 and finished 25th.

A bronze medalist at the Division I National Championships last month, Loweye Diedro (Bronx, N.Y.) defeated 2011 World University Games team member Faizah Muhammad (Maplewood, N.J.), 15-13, in the table of 64. Diedro lost her next bout to former Senior World Champion Dina Galiakbarova (RUS), 15-6, and finished in 28th place.

Fencing for a chance at a second Senior World Team berth, Monica Aksamit (Matawan, N.J.) lost her table of 64 bout to Boudiaf, 15-11.

Tara Hassett (Beaverton, Ore.) advanced to the table of 64 at her first Senior World Cup, but lost to Dyachenko (UKR), 15-8.

A 2013 World University Games team member, Kamali Thompson (Teaneck, N.J.) couldn’t score against 2012 Olympic Champion Jiyeon Kim (KOR) during the first period of their table of 64 bout, giving Kim a 8-0 lead at the start of the second. Thompson scored 12 in the second, but Kim’s lead was too substantial and the Korean won the bout, 15-12.

In the men’s competition, 2012 Olympian Daryl Homer (Bronx, N.Y.) came in as the 11th seed and opened with a 15-12 table of 64 win against Gabriele Foschini (ITA). Homer lost his next bout to Renzo Agresta (BRA), 15-7, and finished in 18th place.

Homer’s 2013 Senior World teammate, Eli Dershwitz (Sherborn, Mass.), defeated Philemon Barruyer (FRA), 15-10, in the table of 64. Dershwitz made a late comeback in the table of 32 against 2013 Junior World Team Champion, but fell to the Russian, 15-13. Dershwitz’s 23rd place result marks his first top-32 of the season on the senior international circuit.

Andrew Mackiewicz (Westwood, Mass.), Dershwitz’s teammate on the squad that won bronze at Junior Worlds in April, earned his first top-32 result at a Senior World Cup. Mackiewicz finished in 27th place after a 15-14 win over Julien Medard (FRA) and a 15-8 loss to world No. 1 Tiberiu Dolniceanu (ROU).

Three U.S. fencers advanced to the table of 64.

Three-time Senior World team member Ben Igoe (Staten Island, N.Y.) lost to 2009 Senior World Champion Nicolas Limbach (GER), 15-4, in the table of 64.

The youngest male member of the 2013 Senior Pan Am Team, Jonah Shainberg (Rye, N.Y.) placed in the top-64 for the second year at this event. Shainberg fenced Ibragimov in the 64 and dropped the bout, 15-9.

For Evan Prochniak (Hudson, N.H.), a 2010 Junior World team medalist, this season marks his first full one on the senior circuit. Although Prochniak lost to 2013 Senior World Champion Veniamin Reshetnikov (RUS), 15-6, he did secure his third top-64 result of the World Cup season.

Click here to view complete results.

Top eight and U.S. results are as follows:

Absolute Fencing Gear® Women’s Individual Korfanty World Cup
1. Mariel Zagunis (Beaverton, Ore.)

2. Viktoriya Kovaleva (RUS)
3. Charlotte Lembach (FRA)
3. Irene Vecchi (ITA)
5. Olga Kharlan (UKR)
6. Dagmara Wozniak (Avenel, N.J.)
7. Ibtihaj Muhammad (Maplewood, N.J.)

8. Paola Guarneri (MEX)

15. Regina O’Brien (Wellesley Hills, Mass.)
25. Daria Schneider (New York City, N.Y.)
28. Loweye Diedro (New York City, N.Y.)
34. Eliza Stone (Chicago, Ill.)
39. Faizah Muhammad (Maplewood, N.J.)
44. Claudia Kulmacz (Upper Saddle River, N.J.)
45. Monica Aksamit (Matawan, N.J.)
61. Tara Hassett (Beaverton, Ore.)
62. Kamali Thompson (Teaneck, N.J.)
78. Violet Michel (Cambridge, Mass.)
84. Maia Chamberlain (Menlo Park, Calif.)
86. Sophie Keehan (Chandler, Ariz.)
93. Arabella Uhry (New York City, N.Y.)
94. Anastasia Ivanoff (Los Angeles, Calif.)
98. Avery Youngblood (Dallas, Texas)
102. Celina Merza (Wayne, N.J.)
103. Francesca Russo (Wayne, N.J.)
106. Lena Johnson (Peachtree City, Ga.)
112. Emma Keehan (Chandler, Ariz.)
117. Lauren Kim (Plano, Texas)
123. Marta Lasota (Silver Spring, Md.)
124. Sarah Merza (Wayne, N.J.)
133. Kara Linder (Chandler, Ariz.)
136. Rachel Aho Wellesley, Mass.)
136. Mary Barnett (Lake Oswego, Ore.)
136. Jessica Whang (Westfield, N.J.)

Absolute Fencing Gear® Korfanty Men’s Individual World Cup
1. Luigi Samele (ITA)
2. Aldo Montano (ITA)
3. Enrico Berre (ITA)
3. Alexey Yakimenko (RUS)
5. Veniamin Reshetnikov (RUS)
6. Bongil Gu (KOR)
7. Aliaksandr Buikevich (BLR)
8. Nicolas Limbach (GER)

18. Daryl Homer (Bronx, N.Y.)
23. Eli Dershwitz (Sherborn, Mass.)
27. Andrew Mackiewicz (Westwood, Mass.)
48. Ben Igoe (Staten Island, N.Y.)
56. Jonah Shainberg (Rye, N.Y.)
61. Evan Prochniak (Hudson, N.H.)
69. Jeff Spear (Wynantskill, N.Y.)
81. Aleksander Ochocki (Linden, N.J.)
88. Geoffrey Loss (Laguna Beach, Calif.)
90. Peter Souders Silver Spring, Md.)
92. Jonathan Fitzgerald (East Brunswick, N.J.)
94. Rienzi Gokea (New York City, N.Y.)
100. Gabriel Armijo (San Diego, Calif.)
104. Michael Costin (Culver City, Calif.)
107. Andrew Doddo (South Orange, N.J.)
113. Andrew Fischl (Huntington, N.Y.)
116. Dawson Sieradzky (Wayne, N.J.)
117. Benjamin Marcus (Overland Park, Kans.)
122. Mary Williams (Bridgepoint, Conn.)
123. Zackery Brown (Watchung, N.J.)
124. Will Spear (Wynantskill, N.Y.)
126. Bartosz Pukal (Natick, Mass.)
132. Benjamin Natanzon (Manalapan, N.J.)
137. Vincent Argenzio (Revere, Mass.)
138. Ameen Borojerdi (Plantation, Fla.)
159. Marcel Dolegiewicz (Park Ridge, Ill.)

Tag(s): News  Daryl Homer  Ibtihaj Muhammad  Aleksander Ochocki  Jeff Spear  Dagmara Wozniak  Mariel Zagunis  Chicago World Cup  Eliza Stone