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Fencing: Two Irish earn golds at Juniors

Chris Masoud | Monday, November 9, 2009

The Irish proved to the fencing world once again that they are not a team to be overlooked on the strip heading into intercollegiate play. Sophomores Courtney Hurley and Gerek Meinhardt finished the USFA NAC Juniors with a pair of gold medals Friday, raising their individual international rankings even further.

Held in Kansas City, the North American Cup brings together the continent’s most talented fencers to determine the best individual junior fencers in the sabre, epee, and foil divisions. Following a day of first-class bouts, the Irish overcame the odds yet again.

“A gold medal is always very hard to get,” Irish coach Janusz Bednarski said. “We had more than 150 of the best fencers from all over the continent in the junior age category coming to fight, so it’s very hard to get to the finals. But gold medal, you have to prove that you are the best at that time, and two gold medals means a lot for us.”

Meinhardt, the youngest male U.S. Olympian in the Beijing Olympics, is used to playing in front of a big crowd against the best in the world. Earlier this year Meinhardt earned a silver medal at the 2009 Senior Pan American Zonal Championships in El Salvador.

“Experience in the Olympic games shows two things,” Bednarski said. “First, it shows that you are a good defender who can play at the highest level of professional fencing. Second, it shows that you can fight on the big stage in front of all the cameras. This will bring calm to a young team that can easily get nervous.”

Sophomore Enzo Castellani also made it to the final eight in the foil before falling to Meinhardt in the semifinals, finishing with a bronze medal.

Hurley continued her dominance of junior competition in the epee, adding another gold medal to a growing list of accomplishments.

Hurley earned a medal on the international stage earlier this year, taking home the gold in the Zonal Championships in El Salvador.

Another sophomore, Radmila Sarkisova, reached the finals in the women’s foil before finishing seventh overall.

“We are competing individually in the fall semester to build up our position,” Bednarski said. “It was important to show that we still have ambitions to fence against other colleges. This competition is national team tryouts for all fencers, so it’s even stronger than the NCAA Tournament.”

The Irish will know their collegiate ranking following the current season of individual bouts. Until then, they will have to settle for medaling in international competition.