(Montreal, Canada) – Team USA’s Ben Bratton (New York City, N.Y.) won his first individual Pan American Championships medal on Wednesday, taking bronze in men’s epee in a field that included the 2012 Olympic Champion.
Bratton finished 5-1 in the pool rounds and defeated Fabrizio Lazaroto (BRA), 15-10, in the table of 32.
In the table of 16, Bratton took on 2016 Pan American Champion Yunior Reytor Venet (CUB). Bratton held a 4-3 lead after the first period, but Venet tied the score at nine in the second. The Cuban pulled away at 14-12 late in the third before Bratton scored three straight singles to win the bout, 15-14.
“I had to beat him. He’s up and coming, but I really wanted to set the tone I think for the next couple years that I’m around,” Bratton said. “I feel like I’m one of, if not the best, in the zone, so when you get against a guy that you know in four years should probably be competing for positions in Games and medals one day, you really want to send a pretty strong message, so I wasn’t going to give up and I really just wanted to see it through.”
With Bratton one win away from the podium, his next challenge would come from Andres Felipe Campos Zarate (COL) who controlled much of the bout, leading the first period, 5-1 and upping the score to 10-3 after the second. With Zarate ahead at 12-5 in the third, Bratton began his comeback, scoring four straight singles to cut the Argentinian’s lead to 12-9. As the clock wound down, however, Bratton found himself at a 14-11 deficit in the final 30 seconds, but still didn’t give up, scoring the tying single with 7.6 seconds on the clock to send the bout to overtime. Fourteen seconds into the sudden death period, Bratton scored again for a 15-14 victory, a guaranteed medal and a position in the first semis.
“I was coming down from the bout with Yunior, and then it really just took me a little bit to find the actions that were going to work,” Bratton said. “Even when I was down, 12-5, I really had no doubt that I could come back. It was just a matter of like, it’s going to work out that way and I was going to find the touches.”
In the semifinals, Bratton fenced 2012 Olympic Champion Ruben Limardo (VEN) and kept the bout close for eight minutes with Limardo leading, 2-1, after the first period and 5-4 after the second. With Limardo holding a two-touch lead in the final minute at 9-7, Bratton was forced to rapidly attack and wasn’t able to score as Limardo countered each attempt until the bout ended with time called and a 14-7 victory for the Venezuelan.
“I’m really happy to have medaled, but not totally satisfied obviously because I wanted gold and to finish at the top of the podium. I ran into Ruben, who is obviously one of the tougher guys out here,” Bratton said. “I was in it for the first three rounds and then he just kind of pulled away really quickly and I kind of had to chase and that was it. It was really well-fought I thought, but just didn’t go my way.”
With Montreal just a six hour drive from Bratton’s home in New York City, the Pan Ams were a rare chance for his family to come see Bratton compete at an international event as his son, 16-month-old Josiah, was in the stands to cheer Bratton on.
“It meant a lot to me. It’s an individual sport, but just to know that I have my support team with me is a really big deal,” Bratton said. “Definitely having my son, who keeps me in perspective, and to just see him playing around and goofing off with the team is a pretty special moment. It’s something I’ll remember.”
Bratton’s three teammates each earned top-16 results.
Rio Olympian Jason Pryor (South Euclid, Ohio) won silver at the 2016 Pan Ams and came out of the pools as the top seed, but drew Limardo in the table of 16. While Pryor led the bout, 6-5, in the second period, Limardo scored four straight singles to end the second at 9-6. Limardo would go on to close the bout at 15-10 in the third.
First-time Pan Am Team members Adam Rodney (New Orleans, La.) and Cooper Schumacher (Parsippany, N.J.) each needed wins in the 32 to advance to the 16.
Rodney defeated Gabriel Bonamigo (BRA), 15-8, before falling to Hugues Boisvert-Simard (CAN), 15-11.
Schumacher was leading his table of 32 bout against Rolf Nickel (CHI), 8-4, in the second when Nickel went on an 8-4 run late in the bout to tie the score at 12. In the third period, Schumacher held off the Chilean to win the bout, 15-14. Schumacher lost his next bout, however, to Jesus Andres Lugones Ruggeri (ARG), 15-9.
In the women’s saber competition, Rio Olympic team bronze medalists Ibtihaj Muhammad (Maplewood, N.J.), Dagmara Wozniak (Avenel, N.J.) and Monica Aksamit (Matawan, N.J.) all earned top eight results.
Seeded second out of the pools, Muhammad entered the event as the reigning Pan American Champion and took a quick win over Ursula Gonzalez Garate (MEX) at 15-4 after a bye into the 16.
In the quarters, Muhammad fenced Julieta Toledo (MEX) – a 2017 Junior World Team bronze medalist who would reach the podium in Montreal after taking the Junior Pan Am gold in Havana earlier this year. Toledo led the bout at 8-5 at the break and again at 12-8 during the second period before Muhammad fought back to tie the score at 14. Toledo took the decisive last touch to win the bout, 15-14, and go on to take the silver medal.
Wozniak, who won silver at this event in 2015 and 2012, earned a bye into the table of 16 where she fenced her teammate, 2013 Pan Am silver medalist Eliza Stone (Chicago, Ill.) Wozniak took an 8-2 lead after the first period and closed out the bout at 15-6 to advance to the quarter-finals.
Wozniak battled back from a 6-1 deficit in her next bout against Marissa Ponich (CAN) to take an 8-7 lead at the break. In the second period, Wozniak was up, 11-9, when Ponich came back to tie the bout at 12. After two more scores from the Canadian, Wozniak put up two of her own to tie the bout at 14 before Ponich clinched the victory with a one light touch to take the bout, 15-14.
Aksamit mounted a comeback of her own in an attempt to win her first individual Pan Am medal since taking bronze in the 2009. Following a 15-4 win against Eileen Grench (PAN) in the 16, Aksamit found herself trailing 2014 Overall Junior World Cup Champion Paola Pliego (MEX), 8-4, at the break. Pliego pushed the score to 14-10, but Aksamit took three straight touches to stay in the bout. Pliego scored the final touch, however, and took the victory, 15-13, en route to claiming her first Pan Am title after bronze medal finishes in 2015 and 2016.
Visit http://fencing.ca/results/2017_panam_montreal/index.htm for complete results.
Top eight and U.S. results are as follows:
Pan American Championships Men’s Individual Epee
1. Ruben Limardo Gascon (VEN)
2. John Edison Rodriguez (COL)
3. Alexandre Camargo (BRA)
3. Ben Bratton (New York City, N.Y.)
5. Andres Felipe Campos Zarate (COL)
6. Jesus Andres Lugones Ruggeri (ARG)
7. Hugues Boisvert-Simard (CAN)
8. Jesus Limardo (VEN)
9. Jason Pryor (South Euclid, Ohio)
11. Adam Rodney (New Orleans, La.)
12. Cooper Schumacher (Parsippany, N.J.)
Pan American Championships Women’s Individual Saber
1. Paola Pliego (MEX)
2. Julieta Toledo (MEX)
3. Marissa Ponich (CAN)
3. Shia Rodriguez (VEN)
5. Ibtihaj Muhammad (Maplewood, N.J.)
6. Alejandra Jhonay Benitez Romero (VEN)
7. Dagmara Wozniak (Avenel, N.J.)
8. Monica Akamit (Matawan, N.J.)
12. Eliza Stone (Chicago, Ill.)
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