Jan. 22, 2014
Notre Dame, Ind. - While the University of Notre Dame fencing team began their season at the January North American Cup competition in Virginia Beach, Va. last weekend, several notable alumni and current team members were fencing overseas in World Cup competitions.
For starters, graduate student Gerek Meinhardt finished in third place, good for a bronze medal at the Paris Foil World Cup. Meinhardt, a member of the U.S. National Team, entered the competition ranked No. 2 in the world, and left with the No. 1 ranking. The men's foil team also finished in third place, narrowly out-touched by the host country, France. Erwan Le Pechoux scored the final point for the French, clinching the victory 45-40. Team USA squared off with Russia in the bronze medal competition, winning 45-30.
"This weekend we started an important part of the spring season," Irish head coach Janusz Bednarski stated. "Gerek did a great job in taking home the bronze medal, and by losing by only one point to a French foilist, who had the help of a few thousand hometown spectators cheering for him in Paris, his accomplishment is just great."
With his No. 2 ranking, Meinhardt was exempt from the Friday pool competitions. He entered the round of 64 facing off against Niklas Uftring (GER) and won easily with a 15-9 score. Meinhard proceeded to win his next two bouts against Mikyu Kim (KOR) 15-10 and Alexander Choupenitch (CZE) 15-9. What is perhaps most remarkable about these three bouts is that Meinhardt won them all within the first period.
Advancing into the quarterfinals, Meinhardt squared off against James Davis of Great Britain. In the first minute alone, the two combined for 16 touches, with Meinhardt going up 11-5. Davis recovered and upped the score to 13-10, but was forced to take a medical timeout with an injured knee. The timeout was all that Meinhardt needed to finish, as he wrapped up the bout 15-10 against his British cohort.
Entering the semifinals, Meinhardt faced hometown hero Enzo Lefort. Meinhardt went up early 13-8, but Lefort fought back and tied it at 14. In his home country, Lefort had the advantage, and clinched the win with one more touch, 15-14.
Meinhardt was not the only foilist with ties to the Irish program in Paris, as freshman Kristjan Archer also competed for his home country of Great Britain. Archer finished in 95th place, advancing out of the pools with a 2-4 (-2 indicator) mark. He went on to out-duel Filip Plocharski (POL) 15-12, but was downed by Pavlo Syrachynskyy (UKR) 15-13.
"Good bouts of others, especially Kristjan in the Junior Foil World Cup," Bednarski said. "With him, and final places at NAC of Ariel DeSmet in men's foil and Garrett McGrath in junior men's epee, there is hope that others can follow up to close the gap between top NCAA tams and Notre Dame because of the graduation of a few of our superstar fencers last year."
One of those superstars was 2013 graduate Courtney Hurley, who paired up with her 2012 Olympic teammate and sister Kelley Hurley to compete at the Epee World Cup in Doha, Qatar over the weekend as well. The Hurley sisters, along with Katharine Holmes and Amanda Sirico, joined forces and finished fourth in the team competition.
Team USA started in the table of 16 against France; after the first four bouts they led, 12-10, and Courtney - in a manner similar to her London appearance - out-touched Junior World silver medalist Aurian Mallo 9-1 to keep the lead, 21-11.
The US women faced Russia next in the quarterfinals, and they out-dueled the Russians to win the bronze medal in London in 2012. Once again, Courtney outscored her opponent, eeking out a 33-32 victory.
In the semifinals Romania awaited, and they were determined not to let the US delegation win. The bout was low scoring, and Romania won by a single touch, 25-24. Eliminated from the finals, the US squared off against the Hungarian team, and fell behind 45-33.
Competing in individual competition, Courtney earned a respectable 20th-place finish. She fenced against back-to-back Russian counterparts in direct elimination, doubling out to win in the table of 64 against Valentina Lushina 15-14, but lost to two-time reigning Junior World Champion Tatiana Gudkova, 15-7. Kelley also competed individually, and finished in 72nd place.