The Olympics are nearly here! We’re so excited to be rooting for the US in Rio (and of course following all of the other incredible fencers from around the world).
Check out the profiles of the US Olympic Fencing Team so that you can find yourself more invested in the amazing events happening in Brazil! You’ll find more here than just your standard profile, because we think that the best way to get excited about these fencers and to really connect with them is to dig a bit deeper. This is truly an amazing group of people, not just fencers, but human beings. It’s going to be thrilling to see them compete on the biggest sports stage in the world!
Hometown: Lexington, Kentucky
Kiefer was the youngest team member of the 2009 World Championship team, at the tender age of 15. In 2012, Kiefer was a member of the Olympic Team, placing fifth in the individual competition and sixth in team.
She is a very serious international competitor and has many international top finishes, including 4 podium finishes just this season with 2 Silver and 2 Bronze medals, giving her a top ranking the the US and placing her at number three (!) in the world. She also holds an unprecedented record, winning 7 consecutive Pan American Championships. Imagine that? This is more than any athlete in any sport (here will go my 3 exclamation marks !!!)
Her Olympic experience and her high level of competition this year has her giving the US high hopes for a medal in Rio. Lee is definitely a real contender for the Olympic hardware of the highest quality. Lee comes from a very fencing family, with her father being a fencing team captain at Duke and with her siblings, Axel and Alex are also great fencers in their own right. Her boyfriend Gerek Meinhardt is also one of the world top fencers and member of the US Olympic Team in Rio (read more about him below). There are rumors that even Lee’s dog fences, but we didn’t have a chance to verify it.
Takeaways about Lee:
- Currently ranked #3 in the world in Women’s Foil
- More consecutive Pan American Championships than any other athlete in fencing
- Real contender for a podium finish in Rio
- Possibly has a fencing dog
- Check out her Instagram @leetothekiefer
Hometown: Brooklyn, NY
In 2015, Nzinga became the first African American woman to win an individual medal at a Senior World Championship.
From a young age, she showed an incredible talent for fencing as she made her way through the competition circuit in fencing, and her highest result up to date was Bronze at World Championship in Moscow 2015. A graduate of Columbia University in 2015, Nzinga is currently ranked #2 in the US and #11 in the world.
Just few days ago, Nzinga wrote a great article about her journey in fencing and life and you can get a taste of her character just from reading it. The best part? In her own words:
“ I won’t be a competitive fencer forever, but no matter where my career takes me, I want to focus on extending opportunity to others in the way that PWF did for me. I want to create spaces where everyone can, at the very least, feel like they can belong and have a chance. We all deserve that”
Takeaways about Nzinga:
- Currently ranked #11 in the world in Women’s Foil
- Bronze at the 2015 World Championship in Moscow
- Accomplished writer
- Featured in ESPN’s 2016 Body Issue
- Check her out on Twitter @zingzang14
Hometown: New York City
Well, you cannot miss him, literally. He is everywhere – you will notice his presence at the venue if he happened to be there, on social media, in different displays around the world. Some think he is a face of modern fencing by being sponsored by Nike and Red Bull, and he definitely got a lot of attention by being Athlete Role Model at Youth Olympics in Beijing in 2014. He’s been featured in magazines from W Magazine to the New York Times, in addition to features in fashion lists. Miles started fencing as part of an afterschool program at age nine, an attempt to keep him out of trouble. As it turned out he had quite an aptitude for the sport, and a passion for it as well.
In Budapest he made a history – Miles was the first man in the United States to win an individual world fencing title, which he did in 2013. Since then he is frequent top finisher at different international competitions. This is his second Olympic Games and he is considered to be a top contender, like the rest of the USA team. In 2015 he snagged a Gold at the Shanghai Grand Prix and a Bronze in the team event at the San Jose World Cup. He’s currently ranked #3 in the US.
Takeaways for Miles:
- Top Men’s Foil contender
- Considered by many to be the face of modern fencing
- Started fencing at age 9 to stay out of trouble
- Check him out on Instagram @mchamleywatson, where he’s got over forty thousand followers
Hometown: San Francisco
The youngest man on the 2012 Olympic team, Massialas finished solidly with a fourth in the team and thirteenth in the individual competition. Massialas is also most decorated Cadet and Junior fencer in the history, winning astonishing number of medals during his cadet and junior career. He’s also a student of prestigious Stanford University.
Early in 2016, Massialas fenced his way all the way to a number one ranking. He did fantastically at the 2015 World Championships, taking the silver, and at the 2015 Pan American Games, taking gold. His father Greg is a three time Olympic fencer for the United States, as well as being the men’s foil coach. Add all of this together and it bodes well for a great showing in Rio and we surely would like him to bring Gold to the Bay Area!
However Alexander is a focused and grounded fencer, recently telling an interviewer:
“Obviously I’d like to be the person to break the drought. But as far my concern with the Olympics go, I’m not really thinking about that so much as trying to get a gold medal. For me, it’s about getting on the strip and beating whoever is in front of me.”
What an amazing attitude, and we can’t wait to see him bring it to the strip in Rio.
Takeaways about Alexander:
- Silver at the 2015 World Championships, Gold at the 2015 Pan American Games
- Father is a three time US Olympic fencer
- Most decorated Cadet and Junior fencer in history
- Find his superfun Instagram @amassialas (the water slide videos are ridiculous)
Hometown: San Francisco
Ranked number 1 in the world in 2014, Meinhardt was the first American foil fencer to ever earn that ranking. He was also the first to win a World Championship medal when he took home the bronze in 2010. His Bronze in the Worlds in 2015, as well as winning at Silver at the Pan American Games that same year.
Interestingly, Meinhardt was introduced to fencing at age 9 through a program run by Greg Massialas, the foil coach of the team and the father of his 2016 Olympic teammate Alexander Massialas. His girlfriend Lee Kiefer is a member of the US Olympic team in foil. He’s also a Notre Dame grad, where he’s currently working on his MBA.
Competing in his third Olympics in 2016, Gerek made history in 2008 in Beijing as the youngest Olympic fencer in the history of the United States at the tender age of 18 and he was also the youngest fencer there in all nations. Now a seasoned competitor and world #4, Meinhardt is looking forward to showing well in Rio. Some call him Mr. Consistency because of his quite a steady international performance and it would be great to see him winning a medal.
Takeaways about Gerek:
- Third Olympics
- Currently ranked #4 in the world in Men’s Foil
- Boyfriend of teammate Lee Kiefer
- Check out his Twitter @GerekMeinhardt
Alternate: Race Imboden
Another great US fencer that unfortunately will not fence in individual event but will be a team alternate. In 2015 Race was the first man from the US to win an individual FIE Overall World Cup Title. He’s currently ranked number #7 in the world.
As a child, Race started fencing when a stranger saw him playing with a sword and suggested it. That’s the same way that he got into modeling – a talent scout picked him out at the 2012 Olympics and invited him to come try it. He went on to sign with the prestigious Wilhelmina modeling agency.
Race also likes to make a history and definitely headlines, sometime quite controversial. In 2013 he chosen to drop out of college and focus on fencing and modeling career. The most recent headlines he made with his decision to start training with Sergei Golubitsky. Another controversy is that while currently Race is much higher than Miles in terms of international ranking (#7 vs #18) he is 4th in the USA ranking system, and the national team is selected based on national ranking, which caused him to lose a spot for the individual event. But we definitely hope that the USA squad will be unstoppable and we will see Race’s fencing in the team format.
Takeaways about Race:
- Currently ranked 4th in the US, 7th in the world
- The first US man to win an individual FIE Overall World Cup title
- Fencer by day, professional model by night
- You can’t miss the red hair
- Join his almost sixty thousand Instagram followers @race_imboden
Hometown: Washington, D.C.
Making her Olympic debut in Rio, Katharine was a member of Team USA at the 2010 Youth Olympic Games. She’s also a three time member of the US women’s epee World Championships team.
She might not be that noticeable yet on the world scene (however she definitely a major force in Pan Americas) but Kat is preparing herself for a fierce competition at the Games. She has a ‘secret’ weapon – a massive database with a detailed analysis of all her Olympic competitors. That comes as no surprise since she’s currently a neuroscience major at Princeton. Would you bet that her science will bring Kat a medal?
Of why she’s doing all of this while also prepping for Rio in more traditional ways, Kat said:
“I really want to do this, and I want to do it right.”
A better sentiment we couldn’t think of for an Olympian.
Takeaways about Katharine:
- Three time US Women’s Epee World Champion
- Using a “secret weapon” in Rio
- Read more about her techniques in this article from the Washington Post h
Sisters Courtney and Kelley Hurley come from a family tradition with both parents being epee fencers. Courtney was part of the 2012 bronze medal Olympic team, finishing 22nd in individual competition. She and her sister Kelley were one of nine pairs of siblings competing for the US in London.
In the last four Pan American Championships, Courtney has won a combined six gold medals between team and individual competition. This year she is ranked number one in the US and number 16 in the world.
Takeaways about Courtney:
- Second Olympics, in 2012 she won Bronze in the team competition
- Six gold medals across team and individual in the last four Pan American Championships
- Find her on Facebook @courtneyhurley4
Hometown: San Antonio, Texas
Rio is Kelley’s third Olympic adventure, as she competed individually in 2008 and in the team competition in 2012. She helped to bring home the first US Olympic medal in women’s epee, a bronze. Rio marks the first time that she will compete against her sister, as in 2012 her sister did not compete individually.
2015 was a good year for Kelley, with an individual silver and a fifth consecutive gold for the team in the Pan American Championships. She also made some headway with a bronze in the Grand Prix tournament. Her qualification in Rio is thanks to her second place spot in the current US rankings, right behind her sister Courtney.
Takeaways about Kelley:
- Third Olympic experience
- Helped bring home first women’s Olympic epee medal in team in 2012
- Second place in US rankings behind her sister Courtney Hurley.
- Check her out on Instagram @thishurleygurrl
Alternate: Katarzyna Trzopek
Hometown: Pacifica, CA
Katarzyna is originally from Poland, but has made her mark in the world of US fencing. A Penn State graduate, two times NCAA champion, frequent visitor to AFM to fence with our junior fencers, she’s currently ranked fourth in the US and is excited to be on her way to her first Olympic Games in Rio. Bay Area fencers know Kasia well: youth fencers are used to her being a referee at regional tournaments in the area and senior fencers often meet her as a tough competitor.
Takeaways about Katarzyna:
- Two time NCAA champion
- Originally from Poland
- No social media account – speaks for itself, right?
Hometown: South Euclid, Ohio
Unfortunately the only US fencer in men’s epee to compete in Rio, Jason is making his Olympic debut.
About 3.5 years ago he was interviewed by Damien and back then Jason told his big goal is to compete at Rio Olympics. Well, Jason, your hard work and the tough life decisions you talked about paid off – Rio here you come! He’s spent the last six years training for this, and he spoke candidly to NPR a few weeks ago about the realities of making this happen, both financially and physically.
Getting involved here is thanks to his number one ranking in the Americas, winning an individual bronze and team silver at the Pan American Games in 2015 and beating world #1 Frenchman Gauthier Grumier.
Pryor is short for a fencer at just 5’9”, but he makes up for it in passion and innovation. He is in constant motion on the strip, never giving his opponents a moment to breathe or to strike. His hopes in Rio are high, and we’ll be right there cheering for him!
Takeaways about Jason:
- Extreme work ethic
- He’s short for an epee fencer, just 5’9”
- Only US man competing in epee
- His Instagram is amazing, so full of joy @pryorsixty8
Hometown: Beaverton, Oregon
Mariel is THE most decorated US fencer in the history and arguably one of the most influential people in terms of how our Olympic sport came to be on the national sport map, all due to her Olympic glory.
She is role model and inspiration for many fencers. Rio is the fourth Olympic experience for Mariel, who is a three time Olympic medalist. Her Olympic record includes 2 individual golds in 2004 and 2008, along with her team bronze 2012. These are marvelously impressive and a fantastic achievement for any athlete, not just for a fencers. Her incredible track record won her an honor to be US Flag Bearer at the Opening Ceremony at the London Games. She just missed medaling in London, placing fourth.
She’s currently ranked number 1 in the US and is the winner of thirteen championship medals. Without any doubt Mariel is the most experienced Olympian on the team.
Her parents, Catherine and Robert Zagunis, are both Olympians as well, having competed in the 1976 games in rowing. Zagunis herself made history with that 2004 gold, being the first US fencer to win a gold medal in a century. She is the only US fencer to win an Olympic Gold medal, and we definitely hope that this title will not last long! And of course she is one of the top contenders for the top podium finish being currently the most decorated fencer in the women’s sabre category and currently world #3.
Takeaways about Mariel:
- First US fencer to win Olympic Gold in over a hundred years in 2004
- Most experienced fencer on the US Olympic Fencing Team
- Most decorated women’s saber fencer
- Currently ranked #3 in the world
- Her Instagram is a fencer’s dream come true @mariel.zagunis
Hometown: Maplewood, New Jersey
Ibtihaj is perhaps the highest profile fencer in America today, as she has made headlines as the first US athlete to compete wearing a hijab, the headscarf worn my Muslim women (want a proof? She was chosen as the only US Olympic fencer to be features in the Limited Edition of the People Magazine). Google her and you’ll find that she’s been in nearly every major US new publication this year.
In 2007 she graduated from Duke with a double major in International Relations and African Studies. While there she fenced for the school’s team, where she was a three time All American and a Junior Olympic champion.
All that aside, Ibtihaj remains formidable competitor, having won medals in two out of three of the World Cup events during the 2015-2016 season. Rio will be Muhammad’s Olympic debut, where she’ll compete in both the individual and team competitions. London was almost her first games, however a hand injury kept her home.
Takeaways about Ibtihaj:
- Goes into Rio with high expectations
- Will be the first US athlete to wear a full hijab during competition at the Olympics
- Medaled in two World Cups in 2015
- Check her out on Twitter for some more inspiration @ibtihajmuhammad
Hometown: Avenel, New Jersey
Rio marks Wozniak’s second Olympics, after she finished eighth in the individual competition in London in 2012. She was an alternate in 2008 in Beijing, though she was never called up.
In Rio, Dagmara will compete in both the team and individual competitions. 2015 proved to be a strong season for Wozniak, with her winning eight medals, including both the team and individual gold in the Pan American Games in 2015. Originally from Poland, Wozniak started fencing when she was just nine years old.
She’s a huge advocate for women in sports in general, and in fencing in particular. Passionate about her cause, Dagmara is a marvelous role model. In a recent interview with W magazine she said:
“I just hated being told you can’t do something because I’m a girl.”
Takeaways about Dagmara:
- Originally from Poland
- Fierce competitor
- Won 8 medals in 2015, including individual gold in the Pan American Games
- Check her out on Instagram where, yes, she has purple hair @dagmarawozniak
Alternate: Monica Aksamit
Hometown: New York City
Monica is currently ranked fourth in the US in saber after working hard with her coaches at the Manhattan Fencing Center. She was part of the 2015 Gold medal US team at the Pan American Championships.
Rio will be her Olympic debut, and it’s one that she’s worked very hard to earn.
Monica is one of 20 graduates of Penn State to compete in this Olympics, a record for a college with an incredible track record! She’s one of four fencers competing out of the college in Rio, along with her teammates Katarzyna Trzopek, Monica Aksamit and Miles Chamley-Watson, as well as Daniel Gomez-Tanamachi who will compete for Mexico.
Takeaways about Monica:
- Lives in New Jersey
- Currently ranked #4 in the US
- She speaks 4 languages
- She has an awesome Instagram @monicaaksamit, and you might find pics of Pokemon on her Facebook @monicaaksamitusa
Hometown: Sherborn, Massachusetts
Making his Olympic debut in Rio, Eli won his first Grand Prix medal this past March – taking home the Gold. He also won Gold in 2015 in both the Pan American Games and the junior world championship being the first American to claim the title. He’s a five time Junior and Cadet World Champion. His list of championships is as long as your arm.
A current student at Harvard, Eli fences for his collegiate team, though he’s taken a year off to make time to train for Rio. Though he’s often told that he’s too young Eli is a rising star in the world of fencing and in his first season in Seniors after he graduated from the Juniors he propelled himself to the world #12. Definitely a great contender for the medal.
Of the pursuit of that medal, Eli recently told the Boston Globe (https://www.bostonglobe.com/sports/2016/07/19/fencer-eli-dershwitz-ready-strike-rio-olympics/AlzoNjPgDdbLisXOqtEJCK/story.html)
“I’ve heard a lot of people talk about how, ‘Oh, even if you don’t make it you still tried hard and that’s valuable life experience that you got this year. That’s a nice way to think about it and something to tell yourself so you’re not upset. But after all the work you put in, after all the years, I do think it would be a big letdown to have all the work, not go to waste, but not to have . . . this end goal to show for it, it would definitely take its toll on me or anyone else.”
Takeaways about Eli:
- Currently ranked #1 in the US
- Top contender for a medal
- Fences for Harvard
- He has a twin sister who doesn’t fence
- Find him on Instagram @eli.dershwitz
Hometown: Bronx, New York
This is the second Olympic Games for Daryl, who finished eighth in team competition and sixth in individual competition in London.
In 2015 he was the first US man to win a medal in saber in a senior world championship with his silver. He was also part of the US saber team which brought home gold at last year’s Pan American Games. If there is anything viral in the fencing then his epic last hit in the world semis last year was definitely such. Daryl is currently world #10 and we surely hope for some hardware on his neck in the upcoming Games. He showed that he can.
He was recently featured in Vogue magazine’s Olympic issue, with some stunning pictures of him with supermodel Karlie Kloss. In fact his good looks, talent and charm have meant that he’s been featured in all kinds of major magazines this year. He shared some pretty fascinating personal facts with US Weekly recently
Takeaways about Daryl:
- First man to win a medal in saber at a senior world championship in 2015
- Currently ranked #10 in the world
- Second Olympics
- Check out his Instagram @daryldhomer
Now that you know who they are, be sure to follow these amazing fencers at the Olympics in Rio!
Photo Credit: USA Fencing Association