NANJING, China -- Sabrina Massialas finally did it. She one-upped her brother Alex. Well, that and won a gold medal in women’s foil fencing at the Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympic Games Sunday night.
“I am so happy,” Massialas exclaimed after her win. “I finally one-upped Alex. I am super competitive with him. I don’t think he’s competitive with me, but I always feel like I have to do better. So, ha! I beat you.”
Massialas’ victory came four years after Alex Massialas took silver in men’s foil at the Singapore 2010 Olympic Games. Leading up to the Nanjing Games, Sabrina was living in her the shadows of her family: brother Alex, a Youth Games silver medalist and 2012 Olympian, and father Greg, a three-time Olympian and national team coach. Now she has something neither of them does: a gold medal.
The 17-year-old won that medal in dramatic fashion. Massialas was tied 6-6 in her gold-medal bout against Japan’s Karin Miyawaki until she managed to score the golden touch in overtime.
“When it was 6-6, I thought it’s best to wait it out and work really hard for one touch,” Massialas said. “I’ve been in many high-stress situations so I’m used to it, I’m prepared for it.”
Clearly, that strategy paid off. But Massialas had been there before. At the 2014 Cadet World Championships, she was down 14-8 in her semifinal bout but came back to win, ultimately earning silver. Massialas’ day in Nanjing was off to a rough start as well. She said the pressure got to her and she had to work on calming herself down.
“I think I went a little too far with that, and the first few bouts I had no fire in me; I didn’t have the fight in me,” she said. “I dropped a few bouts, but afterwards my dad sat me down and told me, ‘You have to fight, you have to be aggressive.’ And that’s exactly what I did. I played some pump-up music, I got myself in the zone and I just went all out, fighting with fire.”
Having her father there to refocus her was crucial, but almost never happened. Greg Massialas arrived in China Friday, but was unsure whether he would be able to be in the coach’s box.
Greg managed to work his magic on the day of competition and found himself supporting his daughter in the same fashion he supported his son four years prior.
“It would’ve been kind of strange because I was in Singapore with Alexander when he fenced in the gold-medal match, so it would have been a little strange if I wouldn’t have been able to be here for Sabrina,” Greg Massialas said. “It was very special to be able to share this fantastic moment.”
Also at the Games was Sabrina’s mother, Chwan-Hui Chen, who grew up in Taiwan and is the reason Sabrina can speak fluent Mandarin. In fact, Massialas was asked to conduct an interview with local media after her win.
“I’m just so flustered right now I can barely speak English! Chinese? I can’t do that right now. I was stuttering; I couldn’t find words. It was awful,” Massialas said after conducting an interview in what sounded like perfect Mandarin.
Up next for the newly-crowned champion is supporting her U.S. teammates through the rest of the Games.
“It’s awesome to represent Team USA,” she said. “’I’ve met a lot of the members of Team USA and I hope they do well, and I hope we bring back lots of medals, especially gold.”
And after that? Rio.
“This gives me new motivation and inspiration,” she said, looking ahead to the 2016 Olympic Games. “I’m ready to take it to the next level.”
Also fencing for Team USA on Sunday was Karol Metryka, who was eliminated in the men’s saber round of 16 after losing 15-13 to Georgia’s Nika Shengelia.