Less than a month after the U.S. men’s foil team qualified for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, two individual fencers have staked their claim both on the team and in the individual competition. Gerek Meinhardt and Alex Massialas mathematically punched their tickets to Rio after last weekend's world cup in Bonn, Germany.
Meinhardt’s fifth-place finish and Massialas’ 17th in Bonn ensure that both athletes have secured enough points to qualify via the USA Fencing national senior team point standings. The top three athletes in the standings qualify for the Olympic team for both the individual and team competitions.
As a team, men's foil team became the first U.S. fencing team to qualify for Rio, and it did so as the top-ranked team in the Olympic rankings.
Meinhardt qualified as the top-ranked fencer and will be making his third Olympic appearance in Rio. He was the youngest fencer in U.S. Olympic history when he competed at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, where he finished 10th in the individual competition. In London, he finished fourth in the team competition. Meinhardt was the first U.S. man to win an individual foil senior world championship medal when he won bronze in 2010. When he won another world bronze in 2015, he became the first U.S. man to win two individual foil senior world medals. Meinhardt, now 25, also won silver at the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto.
Finishing just ahead of Meinhardt on the podium in Toronto was Massialas, who qualifies for Rio in second place in the rankings. At the London 2012 Olympic Games, he finished 13th in the individual competition and fourth with the team. He won individual gold at the junior world championships in 2013 and bronze in 2014 before taking his first senior world championships individual medal, a silver, in 2015. Coupled with Meinhardt's bronze medal, this marked the first time that two U.S. fencers in any weapon have stood on the same podium at a senior world championships. Since the 2012 season, Massialas, 21, has won four individual world cup medals, including two golds.
Massialas and Meinhardt will be traveling to Rio as teammates, competitors, friends and training partners. The two hail from the same club, the Massialas Foundation, in San Francisco, which was founded by Alex’s father, Greg. Greg is himself a three-time Olympian and now a national team coach. Also of note, Alex's sister Sabrina is a 2014 Youth Olympic champion in women's foil. Alex Massialas and Meinhardt have competed with and against each other countless times in the last 15 years and will both be looking to take home their first Olympic medal in Rio, both with and against each other.
Massialas and Meinhardt join saber fencers Mariel Zagunis and Ibtihaj Muhammad as individual fencers qualified to the Olympic team.
The national senior team point standings conclude in April, by which point the third U.S. men's foil fencer headed to Rio will be determined, as well as the replacement athlete (for the team competition only). Miles Chamley-Watson and Race Imboden are currently third and fourth in the standings. All four U.S. men are ranked top-10 in the world (Massialas, first; Imboden, fifth; Meinhardt, sixth; Chamley-Watson, 10th).