(L-R) Emily Vermeule, Isaac Herbst, May Tieu, Kenji Bravo, Natalia Botello Cervantes (Mexico) and Robert Vidovszky celebrate on the podium with their bronze medals at the Summer Youth Olympic Games Buenos Aires 2018 on Oct. 10, 2018 in Buenos Aires.
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — In only 90 minutes, five members of Team USA competing on the mixed continental Americas 1 team went from leaving the piste with their heads hung in disappointment to celebrating a bronze-medal win and throwing their teammate into the air.
In the semifinal against Asia-Oceania 1, the bout came down to an overtime minute for Emily Vermeule of the U.S. and Kaylin Sin Yan Hsieh of Hong Kong. Ultimately, the Americas 1 team fell 23-22.
U.S. coach Greg Massialas attributed the team’s ability to rebound for the bronze-medal match to the fencers’ ability to support one another.
The Americas 1 team was comprised of five American athletes — Robert Vidovszky, Kenji Bravo, May Tieu, Isaac Herbst and Emily Vermeule — and one athlete from Mexico, Natalia Botello Cervantes.
“This group has a really great team feeling; they are all so supportive,” Massialas said. “All of a sudden we lost the last round and Emily was really upset and heartbroken. We went outside, sat down with everyone and regrouped, and she changed. So all of a sudden she went from feeling like a dog to feeling like a hero.”
“That loss was really devastating for all of us,” Herbst said. “Many of us were really upset. But it’s not any one person’s fault, we are one team. And obviously we were devastated, but we could bring ourselves together for one more bout and get a medal, or we could go home empty handed, and I think the choice is pretty obvious.”
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“It’s tough to know that the whole bout can be decided by you,” Vermeule said. “But my teammates were super supportive and said that we win or lose as a team, and that made me feel a lot better."
When Americas 1 sealed the victory, the athletes ran to the piste and quickly surrounded Vermeule and hoisted her in the air in celebration.
For Kenji Bravo, who won individual silver in men’s foil earlier in the week the value of the team competition will pay off for years to come.
“Competing like this is such an amazing experience and it creates such a strong bond,” Bravo said. “These are people I’m going to be competing against for the rest of my life, and to know that we’ve had special experiences like this is really amazing.”
Bravo is joined by May Tieu as Team USA fencers who are going home as multi-medalists. Tieu won bronze in women’s individual foil.
“I really didn’t expect to win two medals, this just feels so good. Being on a team is so different from being an individual. Fencing is generally a very individual sport, but fencing with a team and having people support you is a really great feeling.”