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Team USA’s Top Fencers to Compete in Columbus, Jan. 6-9

01/05/2017, 7:45pm CST
By Nicole Jomantas

Rio Olympic medalist Dagmara Wozniak (left) will be in action at the January NAC in Columbus. Photo Credit: Augusto Bizzi / FIE

(Colorado Springs, Colo.) – The capital city of Ohio will host fencers from around the world, including Rio Olympic medalists and past World Champions, when more than 1,500 fencers descend on Halls C and D of the Greater Columbus Convention Center for the January North American Cup, Jan. 6-9.

The four-day competition will include athletes vying for gold in all three disciplines (epee, foil and saber) in Division I, junior (U20), wheelchair and senior team events. The tournament begins daily at 8 a.m. and concludes at approximately 8 p.m.

The event serves as a point tournament and key qualifier for the Senior World Championships in July as well as the Junior and Cadet World Championships in April.

Six U.S. Olympians and four Paralympians are scheduled to compete, including three medalists from the Games in Rio.

Women’s saber team bronze medalists Dagmara Wozniak (Avenel, N.J.) and Monica Aksamit (Matawan, N.J.) are the top seeds in the women’s saber event. Wozniak, a five-time Senior World team medalist, and Aksamit, who recently moved up to the No. 3 position in the National Point Standings, both returned to the circuit for the first time since Rio where Wozniak defeated Aksamit in the quarters and went on to win silver. Both Aksamit and Wozniak went on to fence at the Cancun Grand Prix two weeks ago and are training for the 2017 Senior Worlds.

Race Imboden (Brooklyn, N.Y.) won bronze with the U.S. Men’s Foil Team in Rio and will be fencing domestically for the second time this year after winning gold at the October NAC. Ranked No. 5 in the world, Imboden won the first World Cup of the season in October in Cairo. The No. 2 and No. 3 seeds, former Junior World Team Champions Jerry Chang (Mountain View, Calif.) and Brian Kaneshige (Maplewood, N.J.), fenced in the finals of the December NAC with Chang defeating his former Harvard teammate to win his first Div I NAC title.

The Division I women’s epee field features three members of the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team, including London Olympic bronze medalists Courtney and Kelley Hurley (San Antonio, Texas) and first-time Olympian Kat Holmes (Washington, D.C.) As the winners of the first two NACs of the season, Courtney and Kelley enter the event seeded first and second while Holmes is third. The Hurleys faced off in the finals of the October NAC in their first event after the Rio Games with Courtney winning the gold and Kelley taking silver. Holmes took bronze in October after a 15-14 loss to Courtney.

Women’s foil fencer Nicole Ross (New York City, N.Y.) has had her most successful season this year with the London Olympian kicking off the quadrennium with her first Division I NAC win in October and following with three straight podium finishes on the international circuit to earn a career-best No. 5 world ranking. Five-time Junior World team medalist Margaret Lu (Greenwich, Conn.) will be the No. 2 seed and one of Ross’s biggest threats as a five-time National Champion. The two last competed against each other at the October NAC with Ross taking the bout before winning gold.

London Olympian Jeff Spear (Wynantskill, N.Y.) is the top seed in the Division I men’s saber event and will be fencing in his second national event since winning the Division I National Championship in April. The No. 2 seed will be Spear’s 2015 and 2016 Senior World teammate, Peter Souders (Silver Spring, Md.) with Ben Natanzon (Manalapan, N.J.), the former No. 1 junior fencer in the world, coming in as the third seed and looking for his second Div I title after winning the July Challenge last summer. Reigning Pan American Champion Andrew Mackiewicz (Westwood, Mass.) finished second behind Natanzon at the July Challenge and will come into the NAC as the fourth seed.  

Former World Team Champion Ben Bratton (New York City, N.Y.) fell just shy of qualifying for the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team in the men’s epee event, but traveled to Rio as a training partner. Bratton took a break from competition and has only fenced one tournament in the last six months which will leave the former No. 1 with a low seed going into pools, but he is seeking to return to the podium in Columbus. The top-seeded American in the field is expected to be Adam Rodney (New York City, N.Y.) who earned a pair of silvers at the last two NACs and two top-32 results at the first two World Cups of the season. Yeisser Ramirez (Brooklyn, N.Y.), a member of the 2015 Senior World Team, will be fencing in the NAC as well, making his second appearance on the domestic circuit since last spring.

In the wheelchair event, four members of past U.S. Paralympic Teams will be competing, including 2016 Paralympians Lauryn DeLuca (Parma, Ohio) and Joey Brinson (Florence, Miss.) A former able-bodied fencer, 17-year-old DeLuca returns to Columbus after being discovered by the Paralympic staff at the 2013 Summer Nationals where she was competing in the Y14 epee event. Forty-year-old Brinson fenced at his second Paralympic Games in Rio and will be fencing both saber and foil in Columbus. At 60-years-old Gerard Moreno (Los Angeles, Calif.) has represented the United States at four Paralympic Games and was the captain of the team in 2012. At age 59, five-time Paralympian Curtis Lovejoy (College Park, Ga.) is one of the rare athletes to have competed in two sports at the same Games. Lovejoy fenced at the 2000 Paralympic Games in Sydney – the same year he won two gold medals in swimming and set five World Records. Although Lovejoy’s classification is not currently contested at the Games, he remains an active international competitor, winning bronze at the last Wheelchair Worlds in 2015.

The junior events also include a number of top competitors with 14 medalists from the 2016 Junior and Cadet World Championships scheduled to compete in Columbus with the goal of qualifying for the 2017 squad, including:

  • Iman Blow (Brooklyn, N.Y. / Foil), two-time Junior World team silver medalist
  • Morgan Partridge (Swansea, Mass. / Foil), two-time Junior World team silver medalist
  • Sylvie Binder (Armonk, N.Y. / Foil), 2016 Junior World team silver medalist and 2016 Cadet World Champion (individual and mixed team)
  • Kasia Nixon (Los Angeles, Calif. / Epee), 2016 Junior World team bronze medalist and 2014 Cadet World bronze medalist
  • Gigi Vierheller (Houston, Texas / Epee), 2016 Junior World team bronze medalist
  • Barbara Vanbenthuysen (The Woodlands, Texas / Epee), 2016 Junior World team bronze medalist
  • Kara Linder (Chandler, Ariz. / Saber), 2016 Junior World team bronze medalist and 2016 Cadet World Mixed Team Champion
  • Martha Merriam (Tenafly, N.J. / Saber), 2016 Junior World team bronze medalist
  • Elizabeth Tartakovsky (Livingston, N.J. / Saber), 2016 Junior World team bronze medalist
  • Geoffrey Tourette (Cupertino, Calif. / Foil), 2016 Cadet World Champion (individual and mixed team) and 2015 Cadet World bronze medalist
  • Tatijana Stewart (Ogden, Utah / Epee), 2016 Cadet World Champion in mixed team and silver medalist in individual
  • Erwin Cai (Marietta, Ga. / Saber), 2016 Cadet World Champion in mixed team and silver medalist in individual
  • Sean Wilson (Houston, Texas / Epee), 2016 Cadet World Mixed Team Champion
  • Adrien Thein-Sandler (Topanga, Calif. / Epee), 2016 Cadet World bronze medalist

More than 30 members of the Ohio State University Fencing Team, representing six nations, will be fencing in Columbus. The team is led by Canadian foilist Eleanor Harvey who placed seventh at the Rio Olympic Games after upsetting World No. 1 Arianna Errigo (ITA) on the world’s biggest stage after winning the 2016 NCAA individual title for the Buckeyes. Among the Ohio State contingent competing at the NAC are four other 2016 NCAA First-Team All-Americans, including Lewis Weiss (Houston, Texas / epee), Alanna Goldie (CAN / foil), Marc-Antoine Blais-Belanger (CAN / epee) and Eugenia Falqui (ITA / epee). Volunteer coach Celina Merza (Wayne, N.J.), a 2014 USA Fencing Division I National Champion, will move from the coaching box to the fencing strip in the women’s saber event.

Visit http://www.usfencing.org/jan2017nac to view the complete athlete roster for each event as well as preliminary seeding and live results throughout the weekend.

Competition schedule is as follows:

Friday, January 6
8 a.m.
Junior Men’s Foil
Senior Team Men’s Saber

9 a.m.
Division I Women’s Saber
Wheelchair Men’s Epee

1 p.m.
Junior Women’s Epee
Wheelchair Women’s Epee

Saturday, Jan. 7
8 a.m.
Division I Men’s Epee

9 a.m.
Wheelchair Men’s Foil

10:30 a.m.
Division I Women’s Foil

1 p.m.
Wheelchair Women’s Foil

2 p.m.
Junior Men’s Saber

Sunday, Jan. 8
8 a.m.
Division I Women’s Epee
Senior Team Men’s Epee
Senior Team Women’s Foil
Junior Women’s Saber

9 a.m.
Wheelchair Women’s Saber

11 a.m.
Wheelchair Men’s Saber

2 p.m.
Division I Men’s Foil

Monday, Jan. 9
8 a.m.
Division I Men’s Saber
Junior Men’s Epee
Junior Women’s Foil
Senior Team Men’s Foil
Senior Team Women’s Saber

11 a.m.
Senior Team Women’s Epee

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