It’s no secret that the American fencers are roaring and ready to go for Rio. And we really think that this year is our year! The U.S. fencing team this year has a lot going for them, with talent, passion and experience all contributing to what we know will be an exciting few weeks in Rio.
There are five sports that have been in every single modern Olympic Games, for over a hundred years – Track and Field, Cycling, Gymnastics, Swimming and Fencing. Of those, there’s only one in which the men have never won a gold medal – fencing. This year really might be the time to break that tremendous streak.
American fencers are set to make history in Rio, to take on tough international competition but with excellent chances to fill the shelf with medals.
The US team is incredibly highly ranked this year. Seven of the members of the team are ranked in the top ten in the world in their sports. That’s huge.
There are three teams ranked in the top three in their weapon: US, tied with Italy and behind only Russia, who has five according to the FIE. Three members of the men’s foil team have been ranked number one or two in the world, a compelling argument for the strength of the men’s foil team in and of itself.
Lee Kiefer and Nzinga Prescod are ranked third and eleventh respectively in the world. Dagmara Wozniak both individual and team gold at the Pan American Games in 2015. At that same event, Alexander Massialas won gold and Gerek Meinhardt won silver. Katharine Holmes won three individual medals and three team medals at the Pan American Games. Eli Dershwitz’s Gold at the Grand Prix in Seoul in March solidified his place among the top Saber fencers in the world, and he is currently ranked number one in the world.
This is perhaps the most highly ranked US Fencing team ever to compete in the Olympics.
A major reason for the power of this US team are the mentors that have been guiding them along the way. American fencing now has a stable of fencing clubs around the country that were founded by former fencing champions in the last several decades, schools that have now been around long enough to have brought up a whole generation of fencers who have learned from the best and most experienced coaches. Six time Olympian Peter Westbrook trained Ibtihaj Muhammad and Nzinga Prescod at his school in New Jersey. Olympic legend Greg Massilas has fostered four of the members of the US team at his school in San Francisco.
That legacy of excellence is an incredible boost for the US fencing team, one that simply cannot be replicated without time and space for it to manifest. This Olympiad marks the entrance onto this highest stage of competition for a whole generation of fencers, and that entrance is set to be a powerful one. There is a depth to the team thanks to these mentorships that is on target to help the team reach new levels of success.
The people who are in the know believe in the power of this team to make history by bringing home the Gold in Rio. Here’s what the foil coach of the foil team, Greg Massialas, a three time Olympian himself has to say:
“Across the board, this is one of the strongest American fencing teams — if not the strongest — in modern history.”
Incidentally, Massialas’ son Alexander is ranked number one in the world in foil and has a strong chance to bring home a top finish.
Much of the team has experience at previous Olympics as well. Courtney and Kelley Hurley, are medal winners in past games. Mariel Zagunis is the most decorated fencer in US history, and she’s chasing the gold at her fourth Olympic Games in Rio. Gerek Meinhardt is in his third games as well, chasing and hopefully reaching for that men’s gold medal in foil. Lee Kiefer, Alexander Massialas, Daryl Homer, Miles Chamley-Watson, Nzingha Prescod, and Dagmara Wozniak all have Olympic experience. What we see here is that there is so much experience within the team that there is mentorship going on right there, a comfort in the energy of the games that means the team is not afraid of the challenges and pressures of being on this stage.
The world is taking notice
NBC, the U.S. broadcaster of the Olympic Games, is spending more time covering fencing than ever before thanks to the strength of the American team. That’s a significant step because it means that they believe that people are going to want to watch thanks to all of the other press that’s swarming over the US team. It also helps that the games will be in the Eastern Time Zone this year, which only serves to encourage more Americans to watch.
That press is everywhere. In fact it’s difficult to miss the US Fencing Team in the news today. Every publication from Cosmopolitan to the New York Times is profiling the fencing team. Race Imboden, Ibtihaj Muhammad, Courtney and Kelley Hurley and more have sponsorship deals that help them to make it all work with training and living expenses. The profile of the US Fencing Team in the world and in the minds of people everywhere as these fencers become the faces of popular products like Visa, Jamberry nails and others.
Even the President of the United States is talking about fencing, with President Barak Obama saying of fencer Ibtihaj Mohammad “I told her to bring home the gold. Not to put any pressure.”
We in the fencing community are taking notice too, and we are all waiting with baited breath along with the rest of the world to see how this amazing fencing team performs in Rio. We’re both incredibly eager and also a little nervous to see what happens with this team, as the pressure is building. But we believe in them! And we’re ready to cheer along with them when they have the success that we know they will!