ATHENS, Greece -- The top U.S. saber fencers got knocked out
of the Olympic tournament Saturday in the round of 16.
Keeth Smart, who last year became the first American fencer to
be ranked No. 1 in the world, stumbled early against Italy's Aldo Montano
of Italy and lost 15-7. Montano, who later went on to win the event's gold medal, scored the first five points of the
bout, and though Smart pulled within one, he struggled with
Montano's attacks and the quick pace of the referee.
"I guess I was a little too excited,'' said Smart, who won his
first-round bout against Gael Touya of France. "I was trying to go
Montano rallied to defeat Zsolt Nemcsik of Hungary 15-14 in Saturday night's saber final. Montano trailed by four points early in the gold-medal match, but came back to take the lead at 12-11. Nemcsik tied it at 12, and the finalists split the next four points, setting the stage for a deciding touch.
Nemcsik retreated slightly on the play, and Montano thrust forward to make the touch and win. He then sprinted to the end of
the strip in jubilation, while Nemcsik took off his helmet in disbelief.
Ivan Lee, who like Smart is from New York and first learned
fencing at the Peter Westbrook Foundation, defeated Gianpiero
Pastore of Italy 15-9 in the first round, but then had to face
four-time gold medalist Stanislav Pozdniakov. The Russian dominated
the bout, taking 12 of the first 16 points. He won 15-9.
Jason Rogers of Los Angeles lost 15-3 in the first round to
Luigi Tarantino of Italy.
Montano won his next bout after beating Smart, and advanced to
the evening's semifinals, along with 2003 world champion Vladislav
Lukashenko of Ukraine, Dmitri Lapkes of Belarus and Zsolt Nemcsik
Westbrook, who competed in five Olympics for the United States,
started a program in New York in 1991 to teach fencing to
inner-city youth. Four of the 14 American fencers competing in
Athens are products of his foundation. Westbrook is also the last
U.S. fencer to win an Olympic medal -- a bronze in 1984.