By Karen Price | Jan. 11, 2020, 5:27 p.m. (ET)
Nick Itkin celebrates during the men's team foil gold-medal match at the Pan American Games Lima 2019 on Aug. 9, 2019 in Lima, Peru.

 

Foil fencer Nick Itkin is taking a gap year from his studies at Notre Dame in order to focus on training to make his first Olympic team.

If Saturday’s performance at the world cup competition in Paris is any indication, the decision was a good one.

Itkin, 20, won his first world cup gold medal on the senior circuit with a 15-9 victory over world No. 4 Daniele Garozzo of Italy—the reigning Olympic champion. Using a strong attack, Itkin collected point after point, sprinting to a 6-1 lead. Garozzo closed to four points, trailing Itkin 12-8, but Itkin scored the next point and needed only to stay calm and close things out. He did just that not long after, dispatching his second top-five opponent in a row.

Ranked No. 10 in the world prior to the event, Itkin knocked off reigning world champion, world No. 3 and home favorite Enzo Lefort of France in the semifinal, 15-12.

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Itkin’s previous best result this season was an eighth-place finish at the world cup stop in Tokyo on Dec. 13. He previously won a world cup bronze medal in Bonn, Germany, in November 2018 and a grand prix silver medal in Shanghai, China in May 2019. As a junior he won the world title in 2018, and he’s also a two-time NCAA champion. In 2018 he became the first U.S. fencer to win individual junior world, USA Fencing Division I and NCAA championship titles in the same season.

Against Lefort, who had the backing of the crowd, Itkin jumped out to a 10-5 lead. Just when it seemed he was running away with the match, however, Lefort came back and closed the advantage to 13-10. Itkin put an end to his run, making it 14-10, and closed it out just after a lengthy video review went in Lefort’s favor to make it 14-12.

Karen Price is a reporter from Pittsburgh who has covered Olympic and Paralympic sports for various publications. She is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.