The U.S. men’s saber fencing team has won two Olympic medals in its history, with a 60-year gap in between.
The fencers on the current squad are hoping the wait won’t be nearly as long between the second and third medals.
The U.S. officially qualified for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 on Sunday when it placed seventh at the FIE World Cup event in Padua, Italy. In Tokyo, the team will go for its second Olympic medal in 12 years, after previously winning a bronze medal in 1948 and a silver medal in 2008.
This also is an opportunity the team didn't get in 2016. From 2004 through 2016, because of the total number of fencing events on the Olympic program, two of the six team events were omitted from each Olympic competition. In Rio that happened to be men’s saber and women’s foil. All six will be contested for the first time in Tokyo.
The last time the U.S. men competed as an Olympic team in saber was 2012, when it finished eighth. The Americans came into the Padua World Cup ranked eighth in the world.
By qualifying as a team, the U.S. will bring three men’s saber fencers to compete individually in Tokyo, while a fourth will make the trip as a replacement athlete available only for the team competition.
Leading the charge for Team USA is Eli Dershwitz, who made his Olympic debut in 2016. He achieved the No. 1 ranking in the world in the summer of 2018 after winning the overall world cup title and a silver medal at the world championships. The 24-year-old Harvard alum is currently ranked fourth in the world.
Also in strong position is two-time Olympian Daryl Homer, whose 2016 Olympic silver medal marked the best finish for a U.S. men’s saber fencer since 1904. He’s currently ranked 16th in the world.
Andrew Mackiewicz, Grant Williams and Khalil Thompson occupy the next three spots on the U.S. rankings.
Thompson, who made his world championships debut in 2019 and is seeking his first Olympic appearance, is currently ranked 37th in the world, while Mackiewicz, who is also seeking his first Olympic appearance, is 95th, followed by Williams at 133.
In two previous world cups this season, the U.S. team finished ninth and 11th. The team was 10th at the last world championships.