Soren Thompson and Mariel Zagunis won the first two gold medals of the 2011 Pan American Zonal Championships by winning the Men’s Epee and Women’s Sabre events. Seth Kelsey and Daria Schneider added bronze medals wins with both going out to their teammates in the semi-final bouts.
Soren Thompson used a smart game plan and timing adjustment to defeat Ruben Limardo (VEN) 15-11 to take the gold medal at the 2011 Pan American Zonal Championships. The individual men’s epee event featured 39 fencers from North and South America. Points earned at the event count towards Olympic selection which concludes in March 2012.
In the semi-finals Thompson met teammate Seth Kelsey. Thompson started the semi-final bout with a 3-0 lead, but never felt comfortable until the end of the bout. Thompson pointed out that Seth has a way of making comebacks, and in the 3rd period Kelsey was down 10-4 but pushed the attack and closed the gap to 14-12. Kelsey simply ran out of time to set up good actions as Thompson picked him off for the 15th touch with 9 seconds left in the bout.
The win places Thompson at the top of the Americas region for Olympic qualification with 82 total FIE points. The various Zonal events count the same number of points as a Grand Prix (1.5x world cup points). Ruben Limardo is second in the region with 59 points and Seth Kelsey is 3rd with 47 points.
The full picture for Olympic qualification and seeding for the 2011 World Championships will depend on the results from the other zones, particularly the European Championships.
In discussing his victory, Thompson pointed out that this win may give him enough points to get into the top-16 in the FIE rolling points. A top-16 ranking would give him a bye through the preliminary rounds at the 2011 World Championships.
Coming into the direct elimination portion of the epee event, all 4 US fencers went 6-0 in their pool bouts and ranked 1,3,4,5 into the DE table. All four US epeeists made their way to the top-8. In the 8, Soren Thompson had to face Cody Mattern. Mattern led the bout early and built up a 7-2 lead, but Thompson fought back and eeked out a 10-9 win.
Ben Bratton had looked dominating all day using a combination of foot speed and strong parry-riposte actions to win his way to the 8. In the 8 Bratton faced Hugues Boisvert-Simard (CAN) and lost a heartbreaker 15-14.
Seth Kelsey fenced a top-8 bout where no touches were scored until the final minute of fencing. Kelsey and Francisco Limardo (VEN) triggered three non-combativity calls during their bout, forcing them into the final minute of fencing with a 0-0 score. Kelsey was awarded priority and then the scoring began. After the final minute, Kelsey advanced 4-3 over Limardo.
Mariel Zagunis dominated the finals of the women’s sabre individual event with a 15-4 thrashing of Sandra Sassine (CAN). With the win, Zagunis secures her spot at the top of the regional standings. In the semi-finals Zagunis faced teammate Daria Schneider, whom she defeated 15-10.
Ibtihaj Muhammad and Dagmara Wozniak fell in the top-16. Wozniak fell to Sandra Sassine who was able to generate one-light parry-riposts and defeat Wozniak 15-9. Muhammad faced Maria Perez-Maurice (ARG) in the 16 and lost 15-14. The final call was called attack-no against Muhammad who protested the touch but the point was upheld after video review. (One angle of the action available here.)
The US results jumble up the order of US fencers in the region heading into the world championships. Mariel Zagunis remains the top ranked fencer in the Americas region. Daria Schneider leapfrogs Muhammed and Wozniak with her result to end up 10 points ahead of Muhammad and Wozniak stays 2 points behind Muhammed.
The top-4 results by Sassine (CAN) and Perez-Maurice (ARG) put them as the next two fencers in the region.
Next up for the men’s epee and women’s sabre fencers will be their team events at the Pan American Zonal Championships.
Results: 2011 Pan American Zonal Fencing Championships
1. Soren Thompson (USA)
2. Ruben Limardo (VEN)
3. Seth Kelsey (USA)
3. Hugues Boisvert-Simard (CAN)
5. Benjamin Bratton (USA)
6. Cody Mattern (USA)
7. Silvio Fernandez (VEN)
8. Francisco Limardo (VEN)
1. Mariel Zagunis (USA)
2. Sandra Sassine (CAN)
3. Daria Schneider (USA)
3. Maria Belen Perez Maurice (ARG)
5. Eileen Grench (PAN)
6. Alejandra Benitez (VEN)
7. Angelica Larios (MEX)
8. Fatima Tobar (ESA)
9. Ibtihaj Muhammad (USA)
11. Dagmara Wozniak (USA)