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Fencer Dagmara Wozniak Catapults From Disappointing Worlds To Golden Performance At Pan Ams

By Sarah Higgins | July 20, 2015, 11:49 p.m. (ET)

Dagmara Wozniak (L) competes against Alejandra Benitez of Venezuela during the women's individual saber final at the Toronto 2015 Pan American Games on July 20, 2015 in Toronto.

Watch the Pan American Games on the networks of ESPN.

TORONTO -- A week after finishing 12th at the World Fencing Championships in Moscow, Team USA’s Dagmara Wozniak was determined to redeem herself at the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto.

“It was a big physical struggle coming back from Moscow,” Wozniak said. “I’m really exhausted. I took the day touch by touch.”

Wozniak defeated Venezuela’s Alejandra Benitez in the women’s individual saber gold-medal match to earn the first fencing gold medal awarded at the Games.

“It’s been a really fun tournament,” Wozniak said. “But a bigger battle against myself to try and stay in it and stay motivated.”

The 2012 Olympian also competed at the 2011 Pan American Games, where she won gold in the team saber competition. Monday was Wozniak’s first time competing as an individual at the Pan Ams and her first individual medal.

Earlier in the day, in the quarterfinals, Wozniak defeated teammate and two-time Olympic champion Mariel Zagunis to advance to the semifinals.

Watch the Pan American Games on the networks of ESPN.

Then, in a showdown with the host country’s only remaining hope, Wozniak took on Canada’s Gabriella Page for a spot in the gold-medal match. Wozniak traded points with Page, taking the lead after the first period, 8-7. Wozniak won the battle after the break as well, with a score of 7-6 in the second period to defeat the Canadian, 15-13.

“I tried to stay in the center and she completely owned me,” Page said of Wozniak. “If only I had used the strip more like I did when I was leading, then I think I could have won, maybe."

With teammate Zagunis standing with her just off the piste as her coach, Wozniak was relaxed and ready to win.

“We’re really great teammates,” Wozniak said of Zagunis. “I asked her if she could come down and coach me. We don’t really get an opportunity to play around like that.”

Wozniak led 8-5 at the after the first period, then took a tightly contested second period 8-7 to win the gold.

“At the end of the day,” Wozniak said. “It’s just an honor to compete and have this experience and have fun.”

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