Meinhardt earns top world rank
Andrew Robinson | Wednesday, January 22, 2014
After a third-place finish at the Paris Foil World Cup this past weekend, Notre Dame captain and U.S. National Team foilist Gerek Meinhardt is on top of the world — literally. At the end of the prestigious international tournament, Meinhardt became the first American in history to be named the world’s top foilist.
The Irish captain, representing the United States in the event, entered the weekend with the No. 2 world ranking. His primarily goal, however, was simply to start the 2014 season with a strong showing.
“I wasn’t sure what to expect honestly,” he said. “The first tournament of the season can be a little shaky sometimes.”
Meinhardt showed few signs of shakiness, however, winning his opening bouts 15-9, 15-10 and 15-9 against world-class competitors from Germany, South Korea and the Czech Republic. He took a quick 11-5 lead against James Davis of Britain in the quarterfinals, and capped it off with a 15-10 victory.
In the semifinal matchup, Meinhardt squared off with Enzo Lefort from the host country France. He fell behind 8-6 early in the bout, but charged back to a 13-8 lead. Lefort, however, with the loud home crowd providing him energy, battled and got the final touch in a 15-14 victory. Lefort went on the win the gold, and Meinhardt finished with the bronze.
“There’s always room for improvement,” he said, “but I was really happy to finish in third place.”
Shortly after the bout, Meinhardt’s coach brought him even better news — the points he earned in the competition would likely make him the top foilist in the International Fencing Federation (FIE) rankings.
“Finding out from my coach in Paris felt great obviously but it actually wasn’t a huge deal at first,” he said. “It really set in coming back and getting congratulations from my family and the Notre Dame family … I’m incredibly grateful for that support.”
Irish fencing coach Janusz Bednarski has high praises for Meinhardt, both as a fencer and as an example for the rest of the young Irish squad.
“Gerek is someone who can blend high-quality academics with the time-consuming work required to be the best foilist in the world,” Bednarski said. “And his teammates say, ‘Hey I want to do that, too.’”
Meinhardt stressed how different NCAA competition was from the international scene.
“I really like fencing [for Notre Dame] because of the team atmosphere,” he said. “Unlike with the international events, I’m training with my teammates all the time.”
Currently in his first year of the MBA program at Mendoza, Meinhardt works to balance his NCAA and elite international competitions with his life as a Notre Dame student.
“It takes a lot of effort and time-management as far as getting work done,” he said, “but luckily my parents got those things ingrained in me when I was young.”
Meinhardt began to fence at age nine, when his parents signed him up for a fencing club in his hometown of San Francisco. The club had recently been opened by family friend and two-time Olympic foilist Greg Massialas, his coach to this day.
“At first, I just really enjoyed competing,” he said, “and I started doing really well and kept going with it.”
As he went along, the accolades began to pile up — he was the Junior National Champion from 2006 to 2009, Senior National Champion in 2007, 2008 and 2012, three-time Junior World Championship medalist, an Oympian in Beijing and London, among several others.
And with his new title, Meinhardt has attained the highest accomplishment of all — the number one foilist in the world.
Contact Andrew Robinson at [email protected]