U.S. Fencers Carry Olympic Torch Into FIE Fencing World Championships
by Bob Reinert
Lee Kiefer looks on after winning her bout against Yuka Ueno (Japan) in the women's individual foil quarterfinals at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 on July 25, 2021 in Chiba, Japan.
After three years, the U.S. fencing team is headed back to a world championships.
A 25-member U.S. team will be among 950 fencers from 104 countries competing at the 2022 FIE Fencing World Championships that take place July 15-23 in Cairo, Egypt.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the delayed Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, which were pushed back until 2021, the world championships have not been held since 2019. The U.S. men’s foil team won the gold medal in 2019 and the American women’s foil team took the bronze medal in Budapest, Hungary.
The U.S. senior world championships team includes 15 who competed in Tokyo. Among them is Lee Kiefer, a gold medalist in women’s foil who is ranked No. 1 in the world. Newcomers to the senior world championship stage includes six American teenagers.
Alexander Massialas, a three-time Olympic medalist and five-time world medalist in men’s foil, is in his 10th world championships. He became the first U.S. fencer to reach two Olympic medal podiums since 1904 with an individual silver and team bronze in Rio in 2016.
The 28-year-old from San Francisco is hoping that his performance at the world championships will atone for a season hampered by, among other things, a wrist injury.
“This season has definitely been a difficult season for me as far as results are concerned,” Massialas said. “It’s definitely been the least successful season I’ve had in almost a decade or more. It’s been a different season.”
Massialas, a former world No. 1, is the son of three-time Olympian Greg Massialas, who coaches him.
“It’s definitely been a very special experience,” Alexander Massialas said of working with his father. “There’s always that little bit of pressure. I was a very competitive kid, so I didn’t take it as added pressure.
“It gave me a lot of confidence,” he added. “If he went to three Olympics, I’m going to go to four. It really didn’t feel like negative pressure. It really felt like a more motivational tool for me growing up. I really felt like I was paving my own way.”
Alexander Massialas during the men's foil team fencing bronze-medal match against Team Japan at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 on Aug. 1, 2021 in Chiba, Japan.
Massialas, who is ranked 17th in the world, said he likes his prospects in Cairo despite his uneven season.
“I feel a lot healthier now,” he said. “I was able to win the gold medal at the Pan American zonal championship. So I feel good going into the world championships.
“Obviously, the goal whenever you’re there is to win the whole thing, and I know I’m capable of that because of my previous success both at the Olympic level and the world championship level. It’s just about applying myself on the day and not worrying about world ranking going into it.”
Anna van Brummen, a 2020 Olympian and two-time junior worlds team medalist, said she likes the U.S. chances in the women’s team epee event.
“I think that the team we have right now can definitely bring home a medal if we kind of show up and perform to our best,” said van Brummen, 27, of Goleta, California. “And this is a really fun group of girls, so that’s what I am most looking forward to at this current tournament.
“I’ve kind of been a little bit up and down but pretty steady, so I’m looking forward to it,” she added. “I’ve been working on balancing fencing and my job (as an environmental scientist). It has been challenging. It’s definitely a hard thing to have to work out.”
Both Massialas and van Brummen have their eyes on the Olympic Games Paris 2024.
“I like to think of my life in quadrennials as any Olympian generally does,” Massialas said. “I have my sights set on Paris as a target.”
Kiefer, a three-time Olympian and three-time senior world medalist, enters the tournament with a No. 1 world ranking. She won a team bronze medal in 2019.
This will be the 11th world championship event for the 28-year-old Kiefer, who won an individual bronze medal in the cadet division in her world debut in 2008. She has won team medals at her last three world championships, including gold in 2018.
The men’s saber lineup includes three-time Olympian Daryl Homer, who won a silver medal in the Olympic Games Rio 2016. That was the best finish for a U.S. man in individual saber since 1904. Ranked No. 10 in the world, Homer is seeking his first medal since winning an individual silver in the 2015 world championships.
Other Olympic medalists on the team include four-time Olympian Gerek Meinhardt — Kiefer’s husband — and 2020 Olympian Nick Itkin, both Olympic team bronze medalists, along with Massialas, in men’s foil. Itkin and Meinhardt are ranked 13th and 14th, respectively.
Two-time Olympian Eli Dershwitz (men’s saber), 2020 Olympian Eliza Stone (women’s saber), 2020 Olympian Jackie Dubrovich (women’s foil) and two-time Olympian Kat Holmes (women’s epee) are also returning world medalists.
The U.S. tuned up for the world championships by winning a total of 15 medals, seven of them gold, in June at the 2022 Pan American Senior Championships in Asunción, Paraguay.
Bob Reinert spent 17 years writing sports for The Boston Globe. He also served as a sports information director at Saint Anselm College and Phillips Exeter Academy. He is a contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.