USA takes men’s team foil gold at world championships in Budapest
The USA’s men’s foil team has won gold at a World Fencing Championships, a historic first for the squad despite multiple recent golds at World Cup and Grand Prix events. An all-round team effort by Race Imboden, Alex Massialas, Gerek Meinhardt and Miles Chamley-Watson has ensured that the number one ranked team led early against France and were never headed. By the time Massialas made the winning touch in the final bout to go 45-32 up, the French had already been frustrated and unable to respond to the American’s relentless pressure.
Vitally important to the win was Gerek Meinhardt’s performance against newly crowned individual world champion Enzo Lefort in the third bout (5-5). Nullifying him early gave Massialas and Imboden the belief that they could do the same thing later, which they did — Lefort ending up fencing a +1. Meinhardt, whose first world championship medal, a bronze, came in this event in Paris nine years ago, personified the U.S. team’s calm approach to their work, relying on years of experience to get the job done with what seemed like a minimum of fuss, strangling any hope of French panache. Unlike the women’s team events the night before, there was no call for priority time or come-from-behind heroics; just clinical, aggressive foil fencing to close out the match.
“We fought fire with fire today,” said Massialas of the win, “every time they hit back we hit back even harder, and we never let them go on any kind of run. I’m so proud of the guys standing next to me right now.”
After Imboden had given the USA an early lead (5-1) in the
first bout against Le Pechoux, Massialas extended it by one to go 10-5. After
the next two bouts both went 5-5, it was Meinhardt who increased the lead in
the fifth, going 5-2 up on Le Pechoux, who was fencing -7 for the match.
In a somewhat surprising move, France then substituted Maxime
Pauty, who was fencing -1, for Julien Mertine. Meinhardt immediately won their
bout by a scoreline of 5-2 once again to make USA’s lead a clear 11 points,
(35-24) by the end of the seventh bout. Lefort threatened a comeback against
Imboden in the eighth, but with pressure mounting on the French to attack, both
he and Massialas had all the breathing space they needed to bring home the win.
“Last year was a big disappointment,” Imboden told FIE after
the win, referring to last years silver medal in China after the team had won
every world cup event that season.
“So we came together this year and really really focused on
team. We worked hard and came here to fence whoever was put in our path. We got
France who we haven’t fenced that often, but are one of the greatest team fencing
countries in the world, so to win this is incredible. We have been the number
one team in the world for a few years, and now we’re world champions!”
Commenting on the entire tournament, Imboden was full of
praise for the host city and the championships in general.
“I love Budapest,” he beamed. “The competition was
incredible, the venue was one of the best I’ve ever seen, and the crowds were
great. I’m super excited to be here and to celebrate!”
In the other gold medal match to be decided on the final
night of competition, Russia’s female sabre fencers were too strong for the
French once again. Led by Olga Nikitina, who fenced a +7, Russia won 45-40 to
deliver Sofia Velikaya her sixth team sabre world championship, the first of
which she in New York back in 2004. Korea had earlier beaten Italy for the
“I’m happy to win together with my teammates and happy to
beat the French team today,” said Velikaya, who finished runner up to Ukraine’s
Olga Kharlan in the individual competition.
“When we won today I forgot all my other medals because I
live today and I’m happy for my team and happy for my country. I’m happy