Olympic Qualification Resumes with Men's and Women's Saber in Budapest
Just over a year after the shutdown of international events due to COVID-19, the World Cup circuit will resume this weekend at the Budapest Men’s and Women’s Saber World Cup.
Budapest World Cup Live Stream and Results
With three events remaining in team selection for the U.S. Men’s and Women’s Saber Teams, each squad has two of the three individual spots remaining as Mariel Zagunis (Beaverton, Ore. / Oregon Fencing Alliance) and Eli Dershwitz (Sherborn, Mass. / Zeta Fencing) punched their tickets to Tokyo with podium finishes before the shutdown. A fourth spot also is available as a replacement athlete for the team event only. All positions will be allocated to the top four athletes on the USA Fencing National Team Point Standings at the conclusion of the qualification period which also includes the May North American Cup in Minneapolis (May 6-9) as well as an additional international event that will be announced when further details regarding the FIE schedule is made available.
The U.S. men will have 12 athletes fencing this weekend and the women 11, including Dershwitz and Zagunis who are ranked No. 3 and 9 in the men’s and women’s events, respectively.
The men will fence individual preliminary rounds on Thursday, followed by the top 64 on Saturday. The women will fence prelims on Friday and the 64 on Saturday. The top 16 fencers in the field will be exempt from pools and the preliminary rounds, including Zagunis and Dershwitz. Team competition will be held on Sunday.
Both the U.S. men and women have already qualified squads for Tokyo, but expect the team events to be challenging as nations jockey for both a final qualification opportunity as well as seeding in Tokyo.
A look at the field is as follows:
All of the top 16 fencers in the world are scheduled to compete, pending the completion of negative COVID-19 tests upon arrival at the tournament. Dershwitz will be among the top fencers to watch after ending the 2019-20 season with a top eight finish in Luxembourg and a silver medal in Warsaw. Nearly all of his final opponents at the last two tournaments will be back again, including two-time Olympic Champion Aron Szilagyi (HUN) who is now ranked No. 5 in the world and will be competing at home, albeit with no spectators in attendance. Dershwitz took each of their three previous bouts, including a 15-11 win en route to taking silver at the 2018 Senior World Championships, but Szilagyi defeated the American, 15-9, in the finals of the Warsaw World Cup in February of 2020.
Rio Olympic silver medalist Daryl Homer (Bronx, N.Y. / Peter Westbrook Foundation) will enter the tournament ranked No. 17 in the world and is expected to have to fence pools. A high finish in Budapest, however, could give Homer a lock on a position on his third U.S. Olympic Team. Homer’s highest finish during the COVID-19 shortened season was a top-eight at the Montreal Grand Prix where he defeated two-time individual Senior World medalist Kamil Ibragimov (RUS), 15-11.
The contest for the top four positions in the U.S. standings remains tight with two-time Senior World Team member Andrew Mackiewicz (Westwood, Mass. / Zeta Fencing), 2019 Senior World Team member Khalil Thompson (Teaneck, N.J. / Peter Westbrook Foundation) and former Junior World Team members Grant Williams (Austin, Texas / Durkan Fencing Academy) and Jonah Shainberg (Rye, N.Y. / Tim Morehouse Fencing Club).
A two-time National Champion for Penn State, Mackiewicz advanced to the second day at three out of four events last season, including a top-32 result at the Cairo World Cup and is ranked No. 3 in the nation.
No. 4 Thompson followed his debut on the Senior World Team in 2019 with a pair of top-64 results in Montreal and Luxembourg in 2020.
Looking to break into the top four, Williams fenced for Team USA for the first time at the 2016 Junior World Championships. Now, the NYU grad is ranked No. 5 in the nation after top-64 results in Warsaw and Montreal last season.
Shainberg, a 2015 Junior World Team member, had a breakthrough season in 2020, earning his first top-32 result on the circuit in Warsaw. The four-time All-American for Notre Dame also earned a top-64 finish in Luxembourg – the final event before the shutdown.
Team USA’s Greatest of All Time, Zagunis won gold at the final event before the shutdown in Athens – the host city for the 2004 Olympic Games where Zagunis won the first of two Olympic titles. With the win, Zagunis returned qualified for Tokyo, earning a top-10 world ranking and dispatching 2015 Senior World bronze medalist Anna Marton (HUN) in the process. After competing at the Rio Olympic Games, Zagunis gave birth to her daughter, Sunday, in 2017. Now 36 years old, the five-time Senior World Champion is aiming to return to the podium in Tokyo.
Eliza Stone (Chicago, Ill. / Bergen Fencing Club) narrowly missed qualification for the 2016 Olympic Games, but the 2013 NCAA Champion for Princeton has been on an upward trajectory ever since, winning bronze at the 2018 Senior World Championships and earning a top-eight finish at the 2019 Senior Worlds after a win over Zagunis in the top 16. Now ranked No. 4 in the world, the 2019 Pan American Champion narrowly missed the podium at the Montreal Grand Prix last season, finishing in the top eight. Ranked second in the nation behind Zagunis, Stone is expected to secure her berth to Tokyo this weekend.
Zagunis and Stone are each exempt from pools and will have byes into the 64.
Fifteen of the top 16 fencers in the world will be in attendance with four-time Olympic medalist Olga Kharlan (UKR) entering as No. 1 after a dominant season last year in which the reigning Senior World Champion won gold at two of the three tournaments in which she competed and earned bronze in the third. An absence in the field will be felt, however, as 2016 Olympic silver medalist and current World No. 2 Sofya Velikaya (RUS) will not compete in Budapest.
On Team USA, both the No. 3 and No. 6 fencers in the nation withdrew prior to the tournament with 2016 Olympic team medalist Dagmara Wozniak (Jersey City, N.J. / Manhattan Fencing Center) and 2019 Junior World Team member Nora Burke (New York City, N.J. / Manhattan Fencing Center) staying home from the tournament.
A 2019 Senior World team member, Kamali Thompson (Teaneck, N.J. / Peter Westbrook Foundation) graduated from medical school at Rutgers last semester and is ranked No. 4 in the nation as she seeks to qualify for her first Olympic Games. Just shy of 1,000 points back from Wozniak in the rankings, Thompson began the 2019-20 season with a top 64 result in Orleans and is trying both to catch Wozniak as well as hold off her two closest challengers in Francesca Russo (Wayne, N.J. / Bergen Fencing Club) and Burke who are less than 100 and 200 points back from Thompson, respectively.
Russo, a two-time NCAA Champion for Notre Dame, earned a top-32 result on the circuit last season, placing 20th in Montreal before falling to Zagunis in the 32. The 2013 Junior World Team Champion also earned a top-64 result in Orleans.
Korea, Hungary and Italy enter this weekend’s events as the top three seeds with Team USA ranked seventh in the world after a seventh-place finish in Luxembourg. Prior to the shutdown, Korea was nearly dominant, winning the 2019 Senior World title as well as World Cups in Luxembourg and Cairo with the team’s only loss coming to France in the finals of the Warsaw World Cup.
The reigning Olympic bronze medalists, Team USA currently sits seventh in the world, but returned to the podium in Salt Lake City, earning bronze with a final win over Ukraine, the 2016 Olympic silver medalists, in the final match. Russia, France and Italy are the top three teams in the world with Russia and France winning gold and silver, respectively, at the 2019 Senior Worlds. Russia has won three of the last four tournaments, including gold in Orleans and Athens, but fell to Ukraine in the quarter-finals in Salt Lake.
Team USA’s roster is as follows, including World Ranking:
3. Eli Dershwitz (Sherborn, Mass.)
17. Daryl Homer (Bronx, N.Y.)
38. Khalil Thompson (Teaneck, N.J.)
98. Andrew Mackiewicz (Westwood, Mass.)
126. Jonah Shainberg (Rye, N.Y.)
129. Grant Williams (Austin, Texas)
160. Geoffrey Loss (Laguna Beach, Calif.)
192. Mitchell Saron (Ridgewood, N.J.)
202. Luke Linder (Chandler, Ariz.)
380. Josef Cohen (Barrington, R.I.)
N/A: Quinten Burgunder (Los Angeles, Calif.)
N/A: Noah Te Velde (Leverett, Mass.)
4. Eliza Stone (Chicago, Ill.)
9. Mariel Zagunis (Beaverton, Ore.)
57. Aleksandra Shelton (Tigard, Ore.)
91. Francesca Russo (Wayne, N.J.)
96. Maia Chamberlain (Menlo Park, Calif.)
102. Elizabeth Tartakovsky (Livingston, N.J.)
111. Kamali Thompson (Teaneck, N.J.)
131. Chloe Fox-Gitomer (Portland, Ore.)
162. Monica Aksamit (Matawan, N.J.)
195. Leanne Singleton-Comfort (Colorado Springs, Colo.)
259. Honor Johnson (Bethesda, Md.)
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