Olympics: Fencing

• Life in Japan won't be anything approaching normal for a long time, and that includes the sporting scene. Other international federations are going to have to weigh the same factors the International Skating Union did when it first postponed, then relocated, the World Figure Skating Championships from Tokyo (where the event was scheduled for last week) to Moscow. The World Gymnastics Championships, the main qualifying event for London 2012, are slated for Tokyo in October, and international gymnastics officials said they'll decide next month whether the site is still appropriate. They have the luxury of weeks, rather than days, to analyze the situation. Here's hoping their choice is based on what's right for the athletes, rather than what's politically correct or sponsor-driven.

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[+] EnlargeMariel Zagunis
Loic Venance/Getty ImagesMariel Zagunis, right, won her second straight world sabre title last week in Paris.


Women have led the way in a U.S. fencing revival on the Olympic level, winning seven medals in the 2004 and 2008 Summer Games combined as the menu of events for women expanded to include individual and team sabre competitions.

Two-time Olympic sabre champion Mariel Zagunis -- who topped a medals sweep for the U.S. women in Beijing in 2008 -- has continued that momentum, winning her second straight and third career World Championship gold in the discipline in Paris last week. Zagunis, 25, of Beaverton, Ore., was injured during the team event and did not compete in the medal round, where the U.S. women made a bid for bronze but finished fourth.

The more surprising result came from the men's epée team, which captured its first medal at worlds, taking silver after falling to host France in the final.

The U.S. quartet of Ben Bratton and Ben Ungar of New York, N.Y. , Seth Kelsey of Brush Prairie, Wash., and Cody Mattern of Tigard, Ore., seeded 12th in the competition, knocked off top-ranked Hungary on the way to the podium.

"The momentum of the bout, being in the Grand Palais, I've never seen a venue like that in my life. It fueled us and got the best out of everybody," said Bratton, 25. "I didn't want to leave that room. It was so intoxicating."

Gerek Meinhardt, 20, of San Francisco added to the haul with a bronze medal in foil, and several other men and women had top-10 showings.

The men's sabre team won silver in Beijing, but the last U.S. man to win an individual Olympic fencing medal was Peter Westbrook's bronze in sabre in 1984, and podiums have been few and far between in the last century. The men's performance in Paris augurs well for London 2012.

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