Fencing Preview

The Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, now taking place in 2021, will mark the first time both individual and team fencing competitions will be held in all six weapons (men’s and women’s epee, foil and saber), and Team USA is expected to have medal contenders in each weapon. 

The U.S. Olympic fencing team won four medals at Rio 2016 and returns most of those medalists for the Tokyo Games. In Rio, the U.S. won silver medals in men’s epee (Alexander Massialas) and men’s saber (Daryl Homer), as well as bronze medals in men’s team foil and women’s team saber.

The U.S. men’s foil team is favored to return to the podium with three of the four members of the 2016 team again representing Team USA in Tokyo. Alexander Massialas, Gerek Meinhardt and Race Imboden return for another attempt at a medal. Massialas and Meinhardt will compete in both the individual and team events while Imboden will travel to Tokyo as the replacement athlete for the team event only.  The third individual slot belongs to first-time Olympian Nick Itkin.  

The women’s foil squad now has earned three-straight team medals at the world championships (silver in 2017, gold in 2018 and bronze in 2019). The women’s foil team consists of Olympian Lee Kiefer, Jackie Dubrovich and Olympian Nicole Ross in the individual spots with Youth Olympian Sabrina Massialas as the replacement athlete.

In the men’s saber event, Rio silver medalist Daryl Homer has his eyes on a return to the podium, but it is his teammate and fellow Olympian Eli Dershwitz who earned the first individual slot on the men’s saber team with a silver medal win at the Warsaw World Cup in February. They are joined by Andrew Mackiewicz and Khalil Thompson as the replacement athlete.

On the women's side, two-time Olympic saber champion Mariel Zagunis returns for a fifth Olympic appearance Her Rio teammate Dagmara Wozniak returns as well from their bronze-medal winning team in 2016. Eliza Stone is the other individual fencer with Francesca Russo as the replacement.   

Like the women’s foil team, the women’s epee team won gold for the first time ever at the world championships in 2018. The epee team consists of Olympic medalists Courtney Hurley, Kelley Hurley and Olympian Kat Holmes in the individual spots with Anna van Brummen as the replacement athlete. 

In men’s epee, Jake Hoyle, Curtis McDowald and Yeisser Ramirez all make their first Olympic Team in individual spots with Alan Hadzic as the replacement.

The foil is a thrusting weapon, and points are scored with hits to the torso using the tip of the blade only.  Epee is a thrusting weapon like the foil, but weighs 775 grams compared to 500 grams for foil.  The saber is a cutting and thrusting weapon. Points can be scored across the entire upper half of the body.

Updated on June 16, 2021. For more information, contact the sport press officer here.

• Mariel Zagunis made history in 2004 as the first U.S. fencer to win Olympic gold in 100 years. Now a mother of daughter Sunday, Zagunis has new motivation — inspiring her daughter who will be 3 years old in Tokyo. One of her top rivals, Sofya Velikaya of Russia, is a mother of two and also a contender for a third podium finish at 36 years old. 

• The U.S. has never won a gold medal in an Olympic fencing team event and the U.S. men’s foil team is aiming to change that. As the No. 1 team in the world for the last three seasons and the reigning world team champions, Team USA is seeking to reach the top step of the podium and is guaranteed to have three podium contenders in the individual event as well: contenders Alexander Massialas, Gerek Meinhardt, Race Imboden and Nick Itkin each rank among the top 10  in the world. 

• Family ties abound on the U.S. Olympic fencing team. Foil fencers Lee Kiefer and Gerek Meinhardt got married on Sept. 1, 2019, and will become the first married couple in more than 20 years to compete together on a U.S. Olympic fencing team. Together, the two have competed at the last two Olympic Games (with Meinhardt winning team bronze in Rio) and have won six individual NCAA titles at Notre Dame (four for Kiefer, two for Meinhardt). Sisters Courtney and Kelley Hurley are teammates on the women’s epee team.  And Alexander Massialas’ sister Sabrina is on the women’s foil team. 

• Eli Dershwitz, now 25,  qualified as the youngest member of the 2016 U.S. Olympic fencing team at 19 years old and has since become the first U.S. men’s saber fencer to win the overall world cup title in 2017-18. Dershwitz remains the No. 2  fencer in the world and in February 2020 won silver at the world cup in Warsaw, Poland, defeating the reigning senior world champion with his only loss coming to the two-time Olympic champion Aron Szilagyi of Hungary in the finals. 

• A 19-time individual medalist on the world cup and grand prix stages, Alexander Massialas is attempting to upgrade his 2016 Olympic silver medal to a gold and is the anchor of the U.S. men’s foil team that’s aiming for its first ever Olympic title. Ranked No. 5 in the world, the 27-year-old  medaled on the circuit twice before the season ended due to the COVID-19 pandemic, winning silver at the grand prix in Torino, Italy, and bronze at the world cup in Cairo in February 2020. 

• The greatest challenger to Massialas could be  teammate Gerek Meinhardt, who has fenced on the national team with Massialas for the last decade. Both fencers also train at the Massialas Foundation, where both are trained by Alexander’s father, three-time Olympian and men’s foil national team coach Greg Massialas. Now a 14-time medalist on the world cup and grand prix circuits, Meinhardt, who will turn 31 in Tokyo, won silver at the world cup in Bonn, Germany, in November 2019 and gold at February 2020’s grand prix in Torino, Italy. Now ranked No. 2  in the world, Meinhardt won in his lone event of 2020-21, at the grand prix in Doha, Qatar, in March 2021.

• A double threat in individual and team events, Lee Kiefer is the most decorated U.S. women’s foil fencer in history, holding 13 individual world cup and seven grand prix medals. Kiefer, 27,  anchored the U.S. women’s foil team to a senior world title in 2018, as well as a world silver medal in 2017 and bronze in 2019. With an individual bronze medal at the senior world championships in 2011 and three podium finishes on the 2019-20 world cup circuit alone, Kiefer could be set to have her breakout moment in Tokyo.

• July 24, 2021: Olympic fencing competition opens with women’s individual epee and men’s individual saber
• July 25, 2021: Women’s individual foil and men’s individual epee
• July 26, 2021: Women’s individual saber and men’s individual foil
• July 27, 2021: Women’s team epee
• July 28, 2021: Men’s team saber
• July 29, 2021: Women’s team foil
• July 30, 2021: Men’s team epee
• July 31, 2021: Women’s team saber
• August 1, 2021: Competition concludes with men’s foil team medal matches