(L-R) Race Imboden, Nick Itkin and Gerek Meinhardt being awarded with the men’s foil team gold medal at the Pan American Games Lima 2019 on Aug. 9, 2019 in Lima, Peru.
Locked in a duel with fencing superpower South Korea in the final round of the world cup in Bonn, Germany, on Sunday, Olympic medalists Alex Massialas and Race Imboden plus relative newcomer Nick Itkin secured a gold-medal result that also ensured that the U.S. men’s foil team would have chance at gold at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.
The 45-31 victory over South Korea meant that Team USA secured enough points in the FIE rankings — accumulated via world cup and world championship performance from April 3, 2019 to April 4, 2020 — to be assured of Olympic qualification. Exactly which fencers will be on that U.S. team is still to be determined, but based on performances like Sunday, USA Fencing will have a strong pool of players to draw from.
The performance in Bonn is yet another excellent result from a team that has proven dominant at the highest levels of the sport during the past year. The team established itself as the best in the world by winning its first world championship in July in Budapest.
Two members of the golden world team were in action again on Sunday. Massialas, a two-time Olympic medalist and Imboden, currently ranked second in the world, were members of the bronze medal-winning men’s team from the Olympic Games Rio 2016. That medal was the first for Team USA in men’s team foil since 1932. In Bonn the duo was joined by 2018 world junior champion Itkin, a two-time NCAA champion from Notre Dame building his name on the world cup circuit. Two-time Olympic gold medalist Gerek Meinhardt was the fourth member of the team.
The USA started with a bye in the round of 32, then swept over Denmark 45-28 and host Germany 45-30 in the quarterfinals. Faced with a Russian team that included 2016 Olympic team gold medalists Timur Safin and Alexey Cheremisinov, the U.S. men scraped out a narrow 45-42 victory, setting up a final against South Korea, which knocked off a strong Italian squad in the semis 45-37.
Imboden and Massialas got the Americans off to a strong start against Korea, with Massialas holding Son Young Ki to a single point in their early bout to give the U.S. a 10-6 lead. Itkin stepped up and did likewise, allowing the United States to begin pulling away 15-7.
Despite a strong challenge from the Koreans, the U.S. men continued to pull away, with Massialas casting the decisive blow against Kwanghyun Lee to give Team USA the victory. Competition on the world cup circuit continues next month in Tokyo, with a world cup doubling as the Olympic Test Event to be held Dec.13-15.