The 2004 U.S. Olympic Fencing Team had unprecedented success as the final result of this Olympic Games comes to a close. This U.S. team across all disciplines, finished with the best results ever in an Olympic Games: a gold and bronze medal, two fourth-place team finishes, and an additional, top-8 individual result.

Mariel Zagunis, the individual women’s saber gold medallist and Sada Jacobson the individual women’s saber bronze medallist are the first U.S. women to ever win Olympic Medals and cleared the 20-year Olympic fencing medal drought. Zagunis’ Olympic gold medal is the first gold medal in 100 years for the United States.

The men’s saber team made history as they were within one touch of winning a medal at two times during the competition losing a heartbreaking 44-45 match to France in the semi-finals, and 45-44 to Russia for the bronze medal after a triumphant victory over Hungary to make the top four in the competition. The men’s foil team made history after ousting Germany to make the final four and losing 45-38 against Russia for the bronze medal. Both men’s team finishes is the best results in five decades.

In the men’s epee individual event, Soren Thompson (San Diego, CA) defeated the #1 ranked fencer in the world, Alfredo Rota 15-13 to advance to the quarterfinal rounds. He lost 15-11 to the 2000 Olympic gold medallist Pavel Kolobkov of Russia to advance to the medal rounds. With a 7th place finish, Thompson holds the 6th-highest U.S. men's epee finish ever and highest men’s epee placement in nearly 50 years.

DAY 1: 8/14: Men’s Sabre Individual

Two men’s saber fencers, Ivan Lee (23, Brooklyn, N.Y.) and Keeth Smart (26, Brooklyn, N.Y.), reached the round of 16 -- a level of success not reached for decades in men’s saber. Jason Rogers (21, Los Angeles, Calif., seed #25) finished in the round of 32 with a tough 15-3 defeat by #7 seed Luigi Tarantino of Italy.
Smart first upset longtime rival Gael Touya of France 15-11 in the round of 32. Smart scored first and continued to lead the sometimes-close contest to its 15-11 conclusion. Smart went in to the table seeded 21st; Touya was 12th. Smart then met up with Italy’s Aldo Montano, the #6 seed. The Italian got off to a strong start (0-5), but Smart fought back to 5-8 at the break. From that point on, it was almost all Montano, who went on to win the contest, 7-15 and was eventually won the men’s saber individual Olympic gold medal.
Ivan Lee (#16) took down Italy’s Gianpiero Pastore (#18) 15-9 before falling to the #2 seed Stanislav Pozdniakov of Russia 15-9. Against the 2001 and 2002 World Champion and Olympic gold medallist, Lee got off to a slow start, trailing 3-8 at the break. Down 3-11, Lee rallied but could not overcome his opponent’s sizable lead. He managed to cut the margin of victory before falling to Pozdniakov, 9-15.

DAY 2: 8/15: Women’s Epee Individual

Kamara James (Jamaica, N.Y.) lost her opening match in the individual women's epee competition in Athens to Tatiana Logounova of Russia by a score of 15-11. James went into the bout as the underdog, seeded #23 against the Russian, who was seed #10. James had tied the match three times (6-6, 8-8, and 9-9), but the Russian scored six of the last eight points to win. Early in the bout at 3-1 the referee gave a touch erroneously that would have made score 3-2 in James’ favor. James, in a display of true Olympic sportsmanship, immediately acknowledged the error and the touch was annulled. James is the only U.S. athlete competing in the Women's Epee Individual event.

DAY 3 8/16: Men’s Foil Individual

Dan Kellner (Warren, N.J.) had a fantastic Olympic Games, coming one touch short of reaching the quarterfinals. Going into the competition seeded 26th, Kellner upset Cedric Gohy of Belgium (the #7 seed) 15-12 in the round of 32. Kellner held the lead at 14-12 but was nipped in sudden death by Richard Kruse of Great Britain in the round of 16. The final score was 15-14.
Jon Tiomkin (Hewlett, N.Y.) faced an exceptionally tough seed in the round of 32: Andrea Cassara of Italy, the #1 seed. He lost 15-3. Earlier, in the incomplete table of 64, he had defeated Maher Ben Aziza of Tunisia 15-10.
Jed Dupree (Bethlehem, Pa.) lost his first bout in the round of 64 to Sofiane El Azizi of Algeria by the heartbreaking score of 15-14.

DAY 4: 8/17: Women’s Sabre Individual; Men’s Epee Individual

Mariel Zagunis (19, Beaverton, OR) won the gold medal in the debut Olympic individual women's saber event, while teammate Sada Jacobson (21 - Dunwoody, GA) won the bronze.
With American flags waving in the sold-out stands, Zagunis controlled the bout against Xue Tan of China and quickly built a 8-2 advantage by the end of the first round. The second round saw Tan rally the score to 10-6. But Zagunis gritted out the next few touches to claim a 15-9 victory and the Gold. She was immediately tossed in the air by her teammates, who rushed the piste in celebration as she won the first gold medal in 100 years for the United States.
Moments earlier, teammate Sada Jacobson (Dunwoody, Ga.) became simultaneously the first U.S. women ever to win an Olympic medal and the first US fencer to medal in 20 years, winning the Bronze in a decisive victory over Romania's Catalina Gheorghitoaia. Jacobson took an early lead, holding an 8-5 advantage at the end of the first period and ultimately winning with a comfortable 15-7 margin.
Zagunis's win avenged Jacobson's earlier 12-15 loss to Tan in the semifinals. For her part, Jacobson defeated Leonore Perrus of France in the quarterfinals, who had earlier eliminated Sada's younger sister, Emily in the round of 16.
Zagunis originally had not qualified for the Games, falling just behind teammates Sada and Emily Jacobson in the world rankings. In June, she finally gained a spot on the US Team after the Nigerian Olympic Committee announced that it would not be sending its qualifying Women's Saber fencer to Athens. Because she was the highest-ranked fencer who had not already qualified to the Games, the Federation Internationale d'Escrime gave Zagunis the vacant spot.
In men’s epee competition, Soren Thompson's fantastic individual Olympic run came to an end, just short of the medal rounds with a 15-11 defeat by 2000 Olympic gold medallist Pavel Kolobkov of Russia. In the round of 16, Thompson (San Diego, Calif.) shocked the world and earned a quarterfinals berth with his 15-13 upset of Alfredo Rota of Italy -- the #1 ranked fencer in the world.
With a 7th place finish, this is the 6th-highest U.S. men's epee finish ever and highest in nearly 50 years.
The other two U.S. men's epee fencers, Cody Mattern (Portland, Ore.) and Seth Kelsey (Brush Prairie, Wash.) finish 19th and 22nd, respectively. Mattern lost to #16 seeded Ivan Kovacs of Hungary 15-6 in the round of 32. Kelsey lost his bout in the round of 32 to Igor Tourchine (seeded #26) 15-11.

DAY 5 8/18: Women’s Foil Individual

The United States qualified one women in the women’s foil competition, Erinn Smart (Brooklyn, N.Y) sister of men’s saber fencer, Keeth Smart.
Smart, the 2000 women’s foil team alternate, was stopped in the women’s individual foil round of 32 by Mariana Gonzalez of Venezuela, 14-12. Smart got off to a slow start, but pulled within one point of her opponent several times before time ran out in the third and final three-minute round of the bout.

DAY 6 8/19: Men’s Team Sabre

Day 6 brought the most heartbreaking day for the U.S. fencing team. At two different moments, the U.S. men’s saber team came within a touch of winning a medal. Despite leading throughout the second half of an exciting, athletic match against Russia, the US team of Ivan Lee (Brooklyn, NY), Jason Rogers (Los Angeles, CA) and Keeth Smart (Brooklyn, NY) fell short of a historic bronze medal by a single touch, finishing in fourth place.
The match started with Smart giving the US Team a quick 5-3 lead, which the Russian team quickly converted to a 10-15 deficit by the end of the third round. But the US men heroically fought back, lead by a fourth round 10-4 explosion delivered by Rogers against Serguei Charikov. The US men scraped out one touch after the other, closing the gap to one and then two touches as Lee took the strip against Charikov in the second-to-last round.
Lee fenced his heart out, diving, stretching, and using the entire length of strip to evade Charikov's attacks while delivering his own nimble replies. The encounter ended with a sizable 40-35 lead for the US.
But then 1996 Olympic Individual Champion Stanislav Pozdniakov took the strip against USA's Keeth Smart. In a 10-4 performance, the Russian master demonstrated the experience and cool that won him four Olympic gold medals. Despite an outstanding effort from Smart, Pozdniakov tied the score at 44-44. Finally, he closed the match with a solid attack and the 45-44 victory.
Earlier in the day, the U.S. men fought in the semi-final match against team France, and again lost a close 44-45 match to the eventual gold medal team.

DAY 7 8/19: Women’s Team Epee

The U.S. did not send a women’s epee team to the 2004 Olympic Games. Team Russia defeated Hungary in the gold medal match 34-28.

DAY 8 8/20: Men’s Team Foil

The US Men's Foil Team of Jed Dupree (Bethlehem, PA), Dan Kellner (Warren, NJ) and Jon Tiomkin (Hewlett, NY) fell just short of a Bronze, losing to Russia, 38-45 finishing in fourth place, the best U.S. men’s foil Olympic team result since 1956.
The men’s foil team made history after defeating the strongly favored German team 45-43 in the quarterfinal round. In the semi-final match, the United States lost to China, the eventual silver medal team, 35-45.
In the bronze medal match, the U.S. team took the lead in the fourth round as Tiomkin pulled ahead of Renal Ganeev 20-19 and stayed within a point going into the sixth round as Dupree finished his round with Russia team anchor, Youri Moltchan 29-30. The U.S. men’s team fought with patience and determination, but in the last half of the match, Russia was able to widen its lead by just a few touches per round, finally claiming victory.

DAY 9 8/21: Men’s Team Epee

The U.S. Men’s Epee Team lost its opening match against #2 seeded France in the final day of Olympic fencing competition.
The team of Cody Mattern (Portland, OR), Seth Kelsey (Brush Prairie, WA) and Soren Thompson (San Diego, CA) managed to stay within several touches of the strong French team throughout the match. In the final rounds, Thompson outscored French star Eric Boisse, who had placed 4th in the Individual competition only days earlier. However, the effort was not enough, and the United States team ultimately fell, 32-45.
The heavily favored French team and eventual gold medal team also featured Hughs Obry - 1998 Individual World Champion and 2000 Individual Bronze Medallist; and Fabrice Jeannet - 2003 Individual World Champion.
In placement rounds, the US men defeated China soundly, 45-36, leading throughout the match. They then lost to the Ukraine, 45-33, finishing in 6th place, the highest American finish in the Olympic Men's Epee Team event since 1956.


Suzie Paxton


U.S. Fencing Association


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