Each month, Team USA Awards presented by Dow celebrates the outstanding achievements of U.S. Olympic and Paralympic athletes. The U.S. men’s foil team won Team of the Month for May 2018, after it completed an unbeaten run in all five world cups of the season. In the team’s Diamond Club feature, presented by Dow, get to know a little bit more about the men behind the masks.
In the 2017-18 FIE Fencing World Cup season, few other nations could touch the U.S. men’s foil team.
The bronze medalists from the Olympic Games Rio 2016 went a perfect five-for-five, topping the podium at each world cup stop, which had never been done before in U.S. history. Miles Chamley-Watson, Race Imboden, Alexander Massialas and Gerek Meinhardt capped off the perfect season on May 6 with a 45-25 win in St. Petersburg, Russia, over Italy.
While it’s clear these guys are at the top of the game on the piste, there’s much more to them than just fencing. Here are five things to know about Team USA’s swordsmen.
1. They Can Strike A Pose
Miles Chamley-Watson models for Nike, as well as GQ, Rolling Stone and more.
Even though they compete in masks, two members of the team also make a living with their looks. Chamley-Watson and Imboden each devote some of their time to modeling. Chamley-Watson has modeled in magazines such as GQ and Rolling Stone, and frequently posts pictures from both of his careers on his Instagram account.
Imboden got his start in modeling when a talent agent saw him on TV competing at the Olympic Games London 2012. He has worked with fashion companies like J. Crew, Marc Jacobs and Banana Republic. Modeling became Imboden’s way of supporting his fencing career. When offered a college scholarship, he was forced to turn it down because NCAA rules prohibited him working as a model while being a student-athlete. Imboden is also active on Instagram.
2. They Came To Fencing In Different Ways
(L-R) Alex Massialas and his father Greg Massialas pose with his silver medal from the Olympic Games Rio 2016.
Fencing is a sport you may not see every day, so everyone has their own unique story of how they discovered it. Chamley-Watson, born in London, chose fencing out of several options in an after-school program he got sent to after misbehaving as a teenager. Imboden’s fencing career started when he was 8 and playing with a toy sword in the park. One of the other parents present casually suggested that maybe he’d be interested in fencing.
Massialas’ route to fencing is much more logical. His father, Greg, is a three-time Olympian who coached Alexander since he started fencing in second grade. Gerek Meinhardt was also coached by Greg Massialas, having been introduced to the sport at age 9 through a program Greg ran.
3. They’ve Had Success At Young Ages
Gerek Meinhardt competes at the Olympic Games Rio 2016 on Aug. 7, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro.
While all still in their primes in their mid-to-late twenties — Chamley-Watson is the oldest at 28 — all have been major players in international fencing for some time. Meinhardt was the youngest member of the entire U.S. Olympic Team when he made his debut in 2008. Massialas had the same distinction in 2012 at age 18. Imboden made his world championship debut in 2011 at the age of 17.
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4. They All Played Other Sports
(L-R) Miles Chamley-Watson, Race Imboden, Gerek Meinhardt and Alexander Massialas stand on the podium at the Olympic Games Rio 2016 Aug. 12, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro.
Before committing to fencing, some of the team members had interest in other, very different sports. Imboden was an inline skater and champion BMX racer. He still has a scar on his lip from a skating accident when he was a boy. Massialas was a soccer player and was on the basketball and swim teams in high school.
Meinhardt played basketball, baseball and soccer, and still enjoys playing basketball in his spare time. His sister, Katie, was a standout player in college for Boston University. Chamley-Watson was a multi-sport athlete in high school and played on the varsity basketball and soccer teams.
5. They Form Fencing Power Couples
(L-R) Lee Kiefer and Gerek Meinhardt pose for a photo after getting engaged.
The life of a fencer can be a hard one to relate to. Fortunately, Meinhardt and Imboden can turn to someone who gets it. Meinhardt got engaged in January to two-time U.S. Olympian and former world No. 1 Lee Kiefer. Imboden’s girlfriend is French Olympic fencer Ysaora Thibus.
As for Chamley-Watson, he has other things on his mind.
“My girlfriend right now is the Olympics,” he said leading up to the 2016 Games. “Hopefully I can marry her next week.”
Todd Kortemeier is a sportswriter, editor and children’s book author from Minneapolis. He is a contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.