Aug. 4, 2012
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - Led by sensational performances from Notre Dame senior fencer Courtney Hurley (San Antonio, Texas/Earl Warren) and her older sister/Fighting Irish alumna Kelley Hurley ('10), the United States women's epee team made history on Saturday, with the Hurleys earning the first Olympic medals of their careers, as well as the first for Notre Dame athletes at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, England.
The Hurley sisters helped the United States claim the bronze medal in women's team epee with a thrilling 31-30 overtime victory over Russia (the second-ranked team in the world) on Saturday at the Excel Exhibition Centre in London. Courtney Hurley was the hero for the Americans, scoring the winning touch 16 seconds into overtime against Russia's Anna Sivkova, as the United States earned its first medal of any kind (team or individual) in women's epee, and the first U.S. team epee medal by either gender since the American men earned the bronze at the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics (the women's team epee event debuted at the 1996 Atlanta Games).
Saturday's bronze medal came the hard way for the United States, which defeated the world's fourth-ranked team, Italy in the quarterfinals, 45-35, and then had to bounce back following a tough 45-36 loss to South Korea in the semifinals. Courtney Hurley, a three-time All-American and the 2011 NCAA individual champion during her Notre Dame career to date, competed in all three U.S. team matches on Saturday, posting a combined 4-4-1 record (45-39 aggregate scoring total), including a stunning 8-3 win over Italy's Bianca Del Carretto that turned the quarterfinal squarely in the Americans' favor.
Meanwhile, Kelley Hurley was named a replacement fencer for the bronze-medal match against Russia, despite not having competed during the entire Olympics to that point. Nevertheless, the three-time Notre Dame All-American and 2008 NCAA individual champion held her own with a medal at stake, going 1-2 (9-10 aggregate scoring total), including a critical 4-1 victory over Sivkova in the fifth of the nine-bout match. Courtney Hurley followed that win with a 4-2 victory over Lyubov Shutova, and the Hurleys' combined 8-3 run over the two bouts highlighted the United States rally after the Americans trailed 15-11 through the first four bouts.
With Saturday's results, Notre Dame athletes now have earned 21 Olympic medals (nine gold, three silver, nine bronze) since 1912, when track standouts Forest Fletcher and George Philbrook became the first Fighting Irish athletes to appear in Olympic competition at the Stockholm Games a century ago. Kelley Hurley also is the 10th Notre Dame athlete to have competed (or be scheduled to compete) at this year's Olympics, the most Fighting Irish representatives ever at one Olympic Games (Notre Dame had nine athletes compete both the 2004 Athens Olympics and 2008 Beijing Olympics).
COMING UP SUNDAY...
After averaging 12.5 points in her last two games, Notre Dame junior women's basketball forward Natalie Achonwa (Guelph, Ontario/St. Mary's Catholic) will look to continue her strong play for Canada (2-2) in its final preliminary round game against reigning silver medalist Australia (3-1) at 9:30 a.m. (ET) Sunday at the Olympic Basketball Arena in London. That game will be televised live on the NBC Olympic Basketball Channel, as well as on-line at nbcolympics.com and ctvolympics.ca, and through the NBC Live Extra mobile app.
Achonwa scored a personal tournament-best 14 points and added a game-high eight rebounds in a 64-60 loss to France on Wednesday, before collecting 11 points and three assists in Friday's 79-73 win over Brazil, the latter result clinching Canada's first Olympic quarterfinal berth since the 1984 Los Angeles Games (a six-team tournament significantly affected by the Soviet-led boycott). With a victory over Australia on Sunday, Canada could move up to second or third place in the final group standings (numerous tiebreaker scenarios are still in play) - finishing third would put the Canadians on the opposite side of the medal round bracket from the United States, while a second- or fourth-place finish would mean seeing the Americans in either the quarterfinals or semifinals.
For more information on Notre Dame participants at the 2012 London Olympics, visit the special Notre Dame Olympics microsite (und.com/olympics), the official London Olympics web site (london2012.com) or the official NBC Olympics web site (nbcolympics.com).