Lee Kiefer and Alex Massialas Defeat Olympic Champions for Gold and Silver in Long Beach
Olympians Lee Kiefer (Lexington, Ky.) and Alexander Massialas (San Francisco, Calif.) have spent most of their career winning medals together - a trend that continued on Saturday when the 22-year-olds reached the podium at the Absolute Fencing Gear® FIE Grand Prix Long Beach.
The two grew up winning medals together on the international circuit as juniors, but the last season has seen the top two foil fencers in America reach the podium together for the last three Grand Prix tournaments.
Kiefer won gold in the women's event and Massialas took silver on the men's side - matching their result from the Torino Grand Prix in December. Last May, it was Kiefer who took silver and Massialas who won gold in Shanghai.
Both fencers also defeated the reigning Olympic Champions by 15-9 margins in the semifinals with Kiefer defeating two-time Olympic gold medalist
Inna Deriglazova (RUS) and Massialas besting
Daniele Garozzo (ITA).
Ranked No. 2 in the world, Kiefer was exempt from pools on Friday and defeated Julia Walczyk (POL), 15-11, in the table of 64 on Saturday before blazing past 2015 Junior World medalist Leonie Ebert (GER), 15-4.
In the table of 16, Kiefer drew Pauline Ranvier (FRA) who won her first World Cup medal in Gdansk last month with a silver where Kiefer won bronze.
Kiefer took a 12-6 at the break and went on to win the bout, 15-12.
Kiefer's next opponent would create the day's first All-American matchup as Kiefer took on Margaret Lu (Greenwich, Conn.) in the quarters.
Lu and Kiefer were teammates on the squad that won the 2014 Junior World Championships and were among each other's top rivals as juniors and on the NCAA circuit where Lu is expected to challenge Kiefer's quest for a fourth straight NCAA title next week.
After a 15-8 win over 2014 Senior World medalist
Martina Batini (ITA) to secure her best senior international result, Lu led early in the quarter-finals against Kiefer, keeping three touches ahead of Kiefer who came back with five straight to secure her podium finish.
In the semis, Kiefer fenced Deriglazova - the reigning World and Olympic Champion who kept Kiefer off the podium at the 2015 Senior Worlds.
Kiefer jumped out to a 4-1 lead before the Russian scored three to tie the bout. Kiefer pulled away again at 11-5 and took the bout, 15-9.
"I always get destroyed by her when we reach the finals. So, I just wanted to be more disciplined and fence smart," Kiefer said.
Kiefer's finals opponent would be 18-year-old Marta Martyanova (RUS) - a 2014 Cadet World Champion who created the day's biggest upset when she defeated World No. 1 Arianna Errigo (ITA), 15-12, in the semis after entering the tournament as the 118th ranked fencer in the world.
The Russian teenager's success streak came to an end quickly when Kiefer opened with a 6-0 lead and didn't look back, dominating the bout, 15-4.
"I was coming into each tournament this season trying to fight hard and I've been training like I can't lose focus. I feel like I've done a good job of that this season," said Kiefer who juggled five stops on the World Cup circuit since October with an NCAA schedule that saw her post just one collegiate loss in her senior season at Notre Dame.
While the men's foil team has had two World Cups in the United States in 2014 and 2015, this was the first opportunity for the women to compete at home since the World Cup came to Brooklyn in 2010.
"It's really exciting and a lot of fun having a lot of fans, and a lot of teammates here. It's really different fencing at home, but it's great not having jet leg," Kiefer laughed.
Although this remains one of Kiefer's most successful seasons on the circuit, she remains uncertain about her future as the world looks ahead to the Tokyo Olympic Games in 2020 and she prepares to enter medical school in the fall.
"I'm not sure if I'm going to keep fencing or not. I'll see how medical school works out," Kiefer said. "I'm looking forward to enjoying the end of my senior year - one thing at a time."
The No. 1 men's foil fencer in the world, two-time Olympic medalist Massialas held Mengkai Huang (CHN) and Andras Nemeth (HUN) to single digit scores, winning his table of 64 and 32 bouts by 15-9 and 15-7 scores, respectively.
In the table of 16, Young Woo Kang (KOR) took a 9-6 lead at the first break, but Massialas scored four straight to open the second period before going on to take the win, 15-12.
The American fans in the stands were hoping for a quarter-final matchup between Massialas and his Olympic bronze medal teammate Race Imboden (Brooklyn, N.Y.), but Imboden fell to Taegyu Ha (KOR), 15-14, in the table of 16.
Ha controlled the bout against Massialas early with a 12-6 lead, but the American went on a 9-1 run to steal the bout back, 15-13.
With a third straight international podium finish guaranteed, Massialas turned his attention to the semis where he would fence Garozzo for the first time since the Italian won their Olympic final in Rio.
Massialas built a 10-5 lead in the fast-paced semifinal and just missed closing out the bout when the clock ran down on the first period at 14-9. Massialas scored quickly in the second for a 15-9 victory.
"He got the best of me in Rio for the gold medal, which definitely stung. But, I'm glad I was able to come out here and get a victory. He's a fierce competitor every time you step on the strip with him - you can never sleep on him," Massialas said. "It feels great, but at the end of the day, we're both just competitors, and we're both trying to compete to the best of our ability for our respective countries."
In the gold medal final, Massialas fenced 2016 Olympic medalist
Timur Safin (RUS) in the finals for the second straight tournament after Massialas defeated Safin, 15-14, to win the Paris World Cup in January.
"I wish I was able to take home the gold today, but the Russian put up a really good fight and he had his day. Hopefully that means next time I'll get the better of him," Massialas said.
The Long Beach Grand Prix proved to be one of the best tournaments this season for U.S. athletes who took advantage of the home crowd to earn three top-eight finishes for the women and two for the men.
In addition to Lu and Kiefer, World No. 5
Nicole Ross (New York City, N.Y.) advanced to the quarter-finals.
Ross would fence three straight bouts against Russians, winning her table of 32 bouts against
Lelya Pirieva and
Adelina Agidullina by 15-7 and 15-10 scores.
In the quarter-finals, Ross came up against Deriglazova and lost the bout, 15-10.
In a twist of the bracket, Deriglazova fenced five bouts on Saturday against only American opponents and it was a 15 year old who almost upset the run in the first round when 2017 Cadet World Team member
Delphine DeVore (Westport, Conn.) made a comeback in the table of 64. With Deriglazova up, 13-7, at the end of the second period, DeVore scored seven straight touches to push the score to 14-13 before the No. 3 fencer in the world came back with two for a 15-14 win.
The reigning Junior World Champion, Sabrina Massialas (San Francisco, Calif.) drew Deriglazova next in the table of 32 and kept the bout close before losing the round, 15-11.
Three-time Junior World team medalist Jackie Dubrovich (Riverdale, N.J.) advanced to the table of 16 for the second time this season, but dropped her bout to Deriglazova, 15-10.
In addition to DeVore, three other members of Team USA advanced to the table of 64.
Reigning Cadet World Champion Sylvie Binder (Armonk, N.Y.) qualified for the second day for the third straight time in her first season competing on the senior circuit. Binder fenced a tough opponent in Italian
Valentina Cipriani and lost the bout, 15-4.
Natalie Minarik (Glen Oaks, Calif.) qualified for the 64 at her first senior international event just weeks after qualifying for her first Cadet World Team. The 16-year-old drew Adelya Abdrakhmanova (RUS) and narrowly missed advancing after a 15-12 loss.
Former World University Games Team member Madison Zeiss (Culver City, Calif.) was one of a handful of fencers at the Grand Prix to hail from Southern California. The two-time NCAA First-Team All-American had the potential to face Kiefer, her former Notre Dame teammate, in the table of 16, but lost her table of 64 bout to Ranvier, 15-11.
On the men's side, 2016 Olympic team bronze medalist Miles Chamley-Watson (New York City, N.Y.) fenced his way back from a 7-1 deficit against 2012 Olympic silver medalist Alaaeldin Abouelkassem (EGY) to steal the table of 16 bout, 15-14.
Chamley-Watson advanced to the top eight for the third time this season, but lost in the quarters to 2012 Olympic Team Champion Giorgio Avola (ITA), 15-10.
Rio Olympic team bronze medalist Gerek Meinhardt (San Francisco, Calif.) fell into the same quadrant in the bracket as Imboden and Massialas, but the Team USA matchups wouldn't happen after Meinhardt's, 15-9, loss in the 64 to Kang.
Three of the four athletes who will fence at next month's Junior Worlds for Team USA also earned top-64 finishes.
A 2015 Cadet World Champion, Sam Moelis (Hewlett, N.Y.) lost to Ryohei Noguchi (JPN), 15-12.
Nick Itkin (Los Angeles, Calif.) fenced in front of a hometown crowd and put up a solid showing against 2011 Junior World Champion Edoardo Luperi (ITA) before losing the bout, 15-11.
Reigning Cadet World Champion Geoffrey Tourette (Cupertino, Calif.) fenced 2016 Olympic team silver medalist Jeremy Cadot (FRA), but lost the bout, 15-9.
Click here to view complete results.
Top eight and U.S. results are as follows, including athletes who placed outside the top 64 on during the preliminary rounds on Friday:
Men's Foil Absolute Fencing Gear® FIE Grand Prix Long Beach
1. Timur Safin (RUS)
2. Alexander Massialas (San Francisco, Calif.)
3. Giorgio Avola (ITA)
3. Daniele Garozzo (ITA)
5. Richard Kruse (GBR)
6. Erwan Le Pechoux (FRA)
7. Miles Chamley-Watson (New York City, N.Y.)
8. Taegyu Ha (KOR)
10. Race Imboden (Brooklyn, N.Y.)
34. Gerek Meinhardt (San Francisco, Calif.)
36. Sam Moelis (Hewlett, N.Y.)
42. Nick Itkin (Los Angeles, Calif.)
46. Geoffrey Tourette (Cupertino, Calif.)
67. Brian Kaneshige (Maplewood, N.J.)
72. Adam Mathieu (Union City, N.J.)
74. Kenji Bravo (San Francisco, Calif.)
79. Gregory Mitberg (Concord, Mass.)
80. Andrew Zheng (Jericho, N.Y.)
87T. Philip Shin (New York City, N.Y.)
89. Jerry Chang (Mountain View, Calif.)
98. Nathan Jeon (Palo Alto, Calif.)
99. Sidarth Kumbla (San Jose, Calif.)
101. Rishi Ranadive (Petaluma, Calif.)
104. Zohaib Mannan (Short Hills, N.J.)
105. Lucas Orts (Burlingame, Calif.)
106. Ashton Daniel (Cupertino, Calif.)
111. Duncan Rheingans-Yoo (Cambridge, Mass.)
121. Jason Chang (Mountain View, Calif.)
123. Aidan Chu (San Francisco, Calif.)
125. Joseph Marino (Rockville Centre, N.Y.)
133. Thomas Dudey (Bellaire, Texas)
137. Jerry Wu (Fremont, Calif.)
Women's Foil Absolute Fencing Gear® FIE Grand Prix Long Beach
1. Lee Kiefer (Lexington, Ky.)
2. Marta Martyanova (RUS)
3. Inna Deriglazova (RUS)
3. Arianna Errigo (ITA)
5. Nicole Ross (New York City, N.Y.)
6. Alice Volpi (ITA)
7. Margaret Lu (Greenwich, Conn.)
8. Francesca Palumbo (ITA)
13. Jackie Dubrovich (Riverdale, N.J.)
26. Sabrina Massialas (San Francisco, Calif.)
47. Sylvie Binder (Armonk, N.Y.)
48. Natalie Minarik (Glen Oaks, Calif.)
51. Madison Zeiss (Culver City, Calif.)
62. Delphine DeVore (Westport, Conn.)
70. Nzingha Prescod (Brooklyn, N.Y.)
72. Iman Blow (Brooklyn, N.Y.)
74. Adrienne Nott (Philadelphia, Pa.)
75. Elyssa Kleiner (San Francisco, Calif.)
77. May Tieu (Belle Mead, N.Y.)
84. Morgan Partridge (Swansea, Mass.)
92. Stefani Deschner (Mechanicsville, Va.)
94T. Isabella Zuzulo (Newton, Pa.)
103. Rachel Zhang (San Jose, Calif.)
106. Quinn Crum (Providence, R.I.)
110. Sara Taffel (New York City, N.Y.)
124T. Sara Martos (El Cerrito, Calif.)
127. Morgan Lee (Brooklyn, N.Y.)