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Saturday, August 21, 2004
U.S. men's team falls short of medal

Associated Press

ATHENS, Greece -- For the second time in these Olympics, an American men's fencing team fell just short of a medal. And, once again, a close call at the end went against them.

After upsetting Germany in the quarterfinals, the United States lost to China in the semifinals then to Russia in the bronze-medal bout.

Italy won the gold medal, fending off a late run by China to win 45-42.

In their medal match, the Americans were tied at 35, then trailed 41-38 when Dan Kellner and Youri Moltchan both recorded touches. The referee awarded the point to Russia and Moltchan went on to close it out.

It was reminiscent of the agony their saber counterparts endured Thursday, when close calls on the deciding points went against them in a semifinal loss to France and the bronze bout against Russia.

"I thought we fenced really well," said Kellner, of Warren, N.J. "There was one or two bad bouts and maybe one or two bad calls that came at a crucial time."

The day began with a victory over Germany, which made everything else a bonus.

The Germans came to Athens as the No. 2 seed, having been knocked from the top by the Americans in June. The United States came to the Olympics seeded seventh.

Lingering bitterness from the World Cup event perhaps led to a surprising snub in the athlete's cafeteria -- the German foil fencers refused to greet several Americans.

The United States led for most of the quarterfinal, then a roll by Peter Joppich put Germany ahead by one. Kellner put the U.S. team back in front, then won with a gutsy move in which he stopped, let the German attack, then parried his blade before poking his foe to win the match.

"I could see the point hit his chest in slow motion and the light come on," Kellner said.

The Americans lost to China by 10 in the semifinal. Italy beat Russia 45-27 in the other semifinal.

Italy led China by seven late in the finals, but Dong Zhaozhi scored seven consecutive points off two-time individual world champion Salvatore Sanzo tie it at 42. Sanzo stalled for time by changing foils, then won the match with three straight touches.