Alex Massialas, the world’s No. 1-ranked men’s foil fencer, lived up to that status by taking gold Sunday at the 2016 FIE Grand Prix event in Shanghai.
After cruising through the first three matches of the elimination phase with wins over Canada’s Maximilien Van Haaster (15-6), Japan’s Kenta Suzumura (15-7) and No. 23-ranked Alexander Choupenitch of the Czech Republic (15-6), Massialas’ first real test came in the quarterfinal round, where he faced No. 8 Daniele Garozzo of Italy, and won 15-13.
That set up a semifinal match against China’s Haiwei Chen. Ranked No. 22 in the world, Chen had eliminated 2015 world cup champion Race Imboden, ranked No. 4 in the world, earlier in the day. In a hard-fought result, Massialas held off Chen 15-14, then rolled through the gold-medal bout over No. 34 Kwanghyun Lee of South Korea, 15-5.
The gold is Massialas’ first since November 2015, when he won the Prince Takamodo world cup event in Tokyo. Gaining momentum in the build-up to the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, he now has six top-five finishes in the past 14 months, including silver medals at last year’s world championships in Moscow and this year’s Pan American championships in Santiago, Chile. He has steadily climbed the world rankings ladder in the past four years, rising from No. 9 in 2012-13 to his current spot at the top.
The son of three-time Olympic fencer and national team coach Greg Massialas, Alex hopes to improve on his 13th-place finish at the London 2012 Olympic Games. His sister, Sabrina, won gold at the Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympic Games, besting her brother’s silver medal from the Singapore 2010 Youth Olympic Games.
World No. 3 and two-time Olympian Gerek Meinhardt finished 18th in Shanghai, while Imboden was 19th. Miles Chamley-Watson, a 2012 Olympian currently No. 9 in the world rankings, placed 21st, while Axel Kiefer was 53rd and Drew Johnston finished 73rd.
The gold is the second medal won by a U.S. fencer in Shanghai this weekend. Lee Kiefer, currently ranked No. 3 in the world (and Axel’s sister), took the silver medal Saturday in women’s competition.