Olympic double champion Zagunis heads strong US fencing squad at London 2012
Wednesday, 25 April 2012
April 25 - The United States' Olympic Games fencing team has been finalised following the Division One National Championships in Virginia Beach – and includes double gold medallist and world champion Mariel Zagunis.
The US is the only nation to send 16 athletes to London, for both the individual and team events, and its squad includes four replacements for each team event.
Zagunis (pictured top, on left), 27, is in contention for her third successive gold medal in the women's sabre, having won both events, at Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008, since it was added to the Olympic fencing programme.
She has also claimed four World Championships titles – two in team events and a brace in individual events.
Dagmara Wozniak, a replacement athlete for Beijing 2008 and part of the world's top 16 for the last four years, joins Zagunis in the sabre squad.
Tim Morehouse and James Williams, both part of the US men's sabre team that sprung a surprise with a silver medal at Beijing 2008, will join world number 14 Daryl Homer with Jeff Spear as the replacement.
Last month they claimed a silver medal at the Moscow World Cup – the first podium finish for a US men's sabre team in seven years.
Men's épée competitor Soren Thompson (pictured below, on right) will be competing at his second Games and Seth Kelsey his third, thanks to world rankings of eight and 23, respectively.
They were both part of the men's épée team which claimed an historic gold medal – a US men's first at senior level – at the World Team Championships last Saturday (April 21).
The women's épée team features Courtney Hurley, whose sister Kelley competed in Beijing four years ago and will be the replacement athlete this time.
Maya Lawrence, who has competed at four World Championships, and 2009 national champion Susie Scanlan complete the épée team.
In the foil, Lee Kiefer – the youngest member of the squad – is selected for her first Olympic Games.
Kiefer showed her potential when picking up a bronze medal at the 2011 World Championships, becoming the youngest individual medallist at the event.
The 18-year-old is joined by Pan American Games silver medallist Nzingha Prescod and Nicole Ross, who secured a top-16 finish at the World Championships, with Doris Willette name as the replacement for a second successive Games.
The US has selected a young foil team, with 17-year-old Alexander Massialas set to emulate his father, Greg, the head coach of the US men's team, in competing at an Olympics.
With bronze at two senior World Cups, he will be optimistic of picking up a medal at the Games while Race Imboden, who finished eighth in his first senior World Championships last year, is also heading to London.
Miles Chamley-Watson, ranked second in the world last year thanks to a fifth-place finish at the 2010 World Championships, also makes the foil squad, while Gerek Meinhardt, a world bronze medallist as a 20-year-old and a Beijing 2008 Olympian, serves as a replacement.
The threesome will hope to replicate its success at the Junior World Championships three years ago where they claimed gold together.
The US had claimed just one Games medal since 1964 until Zagunis grabbed gold in Athens eight years ago.
It has since grown significantly in stature in the sport, with the US men's épée team beating Olympic champions France in the World Team Championships this week – its first world title.
"I've been through the cycle where we would go to a World Championships or a World Cup and be incredibly happy if someone made the top 32," said Greg Dilworth, executive director of USA Fencing.
"Now we go and we're happy for people if they make the top eight, but we're expecting those results.
"We absolutely have medal opportunities across the board, in all weapons and all genders."
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