Eli Dershwitz, only the second U.S. men’s saber fencer to earn a No. 1 world ranking, will have an opportunity to translate that standing into some Olympic hardward.
The Harvard grad and native of Sherborn, Massachusetts, qualified for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 by finishing sixth on Saturday at the FIE World Cup in Padua, Italy.
Dershwitz has been among the world’s top saber fencers since finishing 19th in his Olympic debut four years ago in Rio, when he was the youngest member of the U.S. fencing team. The fencer, now 24, came into Padua ranked fourth in the world, though he’s been among the best in the sport for a few years now.
His breakthrough came in 2018, when he finished second at the world championships but won the overall world cup title and became just the second American man to achieve the No. 1 ranking. Keeth Smart previously achieved that feat in 2003.
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Dershwitz followed his older brother Philip into the sport, and it wasn’t long before he was standing above his peers. In 2011, he reached his first junior world championships, finishing second. He was third the next year and then won gold in 2015.
He’s also competed at every senior world championships since 2013, with his best finishing being second in 2018.
In Tokyo, Dershwitz will aim to become the fifth U.S. man to win a medal in saber fencing, a discipline that has been part of the Olympic program since the modern Games began in 1896. In 2016, Daryl Homer won a silver medal, the first by a U.S. man in 32 years. No American man has ever won a gold medal in saber fencing.
On Sunday, Dershwitz and Homer could also help the U.S. men’s saber team qualify for Tokyo. Men’s team saber was not contested during the 2016 Games, as it was the odd event out on the rotation. However, beginning in 2020, all six team fencing events will be contested in the Olympics. The U.S. men finished eighth in 2012.
Chrös McDougall has covered the Olympic and Paralympic movement for TeamUSA.org since 2009 on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc. He is based in Minneapolis-St. Paul.