(San Jose, Calif.) – The U.S. Men’s Foil Team opened the new season with a bronze medal win on home soil at the San Jose World Cup on Sunday.
The trio of London Olympians Race Imboden (Brooklyn, N.Y.), Alexander Massialas (San Francisco, Calif.) and Miles Chamley-Watson (New York City) were joined by 2008 Senior World Team member David Willette (Lafayette, Calif.) who fenced team as a replacement for two-time Olympian Gerek Meinhardt (San Francisco, Calif.) who was out with an injury.
The Americans got off to a rough start in the table of 16, giving up a seven-touch lead to trail Ukraine, 20-17, after the fourth bout. Chamley-Watson turned the tide for Team USA in the fifth, however, when he defeated Andrii Pogrebniak (UKR), 8-3, to put Team USA back into the lead, 25-23. By the end of the eighth bout, however, Team USA found itself behind Ukraine again, 40-38. Although Pogrebniak scored first in the anchor bout, Massialas picked up three straight to tie the bout at 41 and held off a late charge by Ukraine to tie the bout at 43 before securing a 45-43 victory.
“Ukraine also has a very unique style of fencing. It’s not necessarily Orthodox fencing, so, when you fence them, sometimes things can get lost like your feeling can get lost, stuff starts feeling weird and we all started struggling to find our attack,” Imboden said. “I, myself, had a big streaky bout with Yunes and it’s tough because sometimes the momentum swings like that and you just have to keep your patience and thankfully Alex came in at the end and closed it out.”
In the quarter-finals the squad regrouped and bested China, the 2010 and 2011 Senior World Team Champions, by 20 points and a score of 45-25. The Americans won or tied eight of nine bouts with Chamley-Watson posting a team-high +10 indicator and Massialas shutting out 2012 Olympic Champion Sheng Lei in the anchor bout.
“We fence them all the time and we actually said before that bout ‘We’re done. We’re done losing to China,’” said Imboden who helped get the match started with a 5-1 win over 2014 Junior World Champion Haiwei Chen. “We’d have had such a great season and we would beat a lot of great people and then China would be our kryptonite. But today we came out and we were up 15-3 in the first three bouts.”
With a chance at a medal secured, Team USA fenced Japan, the 2012 Olympic silver medalists, in the semis. Despite keeping the bout close early on, Japan held a 39-36 lead by the start of the anchor leg between Massialas and 2015 Senior World Champion Yuki Ota. The bout would be a rematch of their gold medal bout from the Worlds where Massialas took silver behind Ota.
This time, the touches were split with Massialas matching Ota for six scores each which would give Japan the victory, 45-42.
The Americans would have just over two hours to regroup for their match against Italy – the reigning World Champions who lost to France in the other semi. The position was a familiar one for Team USA who fenced for bronze twice last season and placed fourth at the London Olympic Games.
“The bitterness of that draws us to come back every time because fourth place is, in my opinion, the worst place you can be just because you feel so terrible afterwards,” Massialas said. “Making the top eight or not making the top eight is bad, but when you’re so close to a medal you can even taste it, it sucks when you lose that last match right after you probably lost a hard one to try and make the gold medal match too.”
Massialas struggled in his first bout of the bronze medal final against 2015 Senior World Team Champion Daniele Garozzo who outscored Massialas, 5-1. Chamley-Watson picked up a critical win for the Americans when he defeated 2012 Olympic Team Champion Giorgio Avola, 7-4 and Imboden followed with a 7-4 victory over Garozzo to put the Americans up, 20-18.
“Everybody was fencing really hard and I think we were all just zoned in and ready to take them out. I want to say I had a good momentum swing, but we were really on top of our game right from the beginning,” Imboden said.
The Americans gave up just four touches in the next three bouts, including a 5-0 shutout of 10-time Senior World medalist Andrea Baldini by Chamley-Watson. Massialas closed out against Baldini and finished the match with a 45-28 win.
“We study their team all the time and they’re a really tough squad to beat. We lost to them at Worlds and a couple times last season as well,” Massialas said. “To come out here and have a great showing, it really means a lot and it shows that we can compete with the best of them.”
Massialas noted that winning a World Cup medal at home made the victory even more special – not just for himself, but for the young fencers in the audience.
“I really do have to say our fans were amazing out there and there were so many supporters and volunteers and young fencers out here trying to watch the top fencing in the world and that’s the next generation of American fencers out here watching us and trying to get better,” Massialas said. “I never had the opportunity to see top level fencing until I started coming out to compete at these World Cups and so it’s an amazing opportunity for these kids to come out and see all of these amazing fencers compete over two, three days.”
For Chamley-Watson, his focus has already turned to the next World Cup in Tokyo.
“You want to get gold in both the individual and team event, but I think today shows that I’m fencing at a really high level and we’ll have to video some of that and then it’s time to get ready for Tokyo, but I’m feeling really strong,” he said.
After Team USA won bronze, France took gold, defeating Japan, 45-37, in the final match.
Top eight and U.S. results are as follows:
For more information, contact Nicole Jomantas, USA Fencing Communications Manager, at 719.761.7909 (cell) or N.Jomantas@usfencing.org.