Sunday, August 14, 2016

Dagmara Wozniak helps lead U.S. fencing team to Bronze medal

The U.S. women's fencing contingent came into the Olympic team sabre event Saturday with a chip on their shoulders after coming away relatively disappointed in the individual competitions. But as team, they found reason to celebrate after winning the bronze medal, beating Italy 45-30 and matching the 2008 bronze-medal finish in Beijing.

Led by a duo of determined Olympic veterans Dagmara Wozniak — the purple-haired St. John's alum who earned her first Olympic medal after being an alternate in Beijing and placing eighth individually in London — and Mariel Zagunis — who was on the 2008 team and now adds a fourth Olympic medal to her collection. They were joined by Ibtihaj Muhammad and Monica Aksamit, both appearing in their first Olympic Games.

Muhammad, who became the first U.S. Olympian to wear a hijab during competition earlier this week, can now proudly bring a bronze medal back home to New Jersey with her.

After losing a close semifinals match, 45-42, against eventual Gold medal winner Russia, team USA built up a lead against Italy before Muhammad started to lose ground against her Italian opponent, Irene Vecchi, in the third bout.

 Zagunis, the most decorated U.S. fencer of all time, yelled support “It’s OK, it’s OK” from behind the piste and Muhammad ended the third bout in a 5-5 tie with Team USA still in the lead at 15-11.

While the Italians drew closer in the seventh bout, winning for the first time 8-5, it was Wozniak who extended the lead again to 40-27 overall. Zagunis anchored the team, closing out with a 5-3 bout, and leading the team in a well deserved group hug after the victory.

For St. John's, that means two former Red Storm fencers went home with medals in Rio.

Daryl Homer took home a Silver earlier in the week. Homer, a 26-year-old from the Bronx, born in the Virgin Islands, became the first American to win a silver medal in men’s individual sabre in 112 years.

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