The U.S. women’s saber fencing team won the gold medal at the world cup Sunday in Yangzhou, China, and did it without one of its biggest stars.
Two-time Olympic champion Mariel Zagunis, who rose to No. 7 in the world rankings after taking the meet’s individual bronze Saturday, was not part of the lineup for the team competition, but the four Americans who fought were able to score victories over three top-10 teams to claim gold.
Three of the fencers were part of the squad that brought home bronze from the Rio 2016 Olympic Games and are ranked among the top 30 in the world individually. Ibtihaj Muhammad (No. 12), Monica Aksamit (No. 25) and Dagmara Wozniak (No. 26) were joined by Eliza Stone (No. 101).
After opening with a 45-26 win over No. 13 Hong Kong, the road to gold for Team USA featured three straight matches against highly-ranked foes. First up was No. 5 South Korea, which fell by a 45-37 margin. The semifinal round brought No. 9 Hungary, a formidable foe that gave the Americans a run for their money before bowing by a 45-44 mark.
That led to a championship encounter with world No. 2 France, a squad that included No. 2 Manon Brunet and No. 10 Charlotte Lembach. Team USA, ranked No. 3 entering the match, came away with a 45-43 win to claim gold. Italy defeated Hungary to take bronze.