Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Olympics: Asian/American fencers go to Rio to make a point

THREE ASIAN/AMERICANS will be representing the U.S. in fencing at the Rio Olympics next week. The team is probably the best team the U.S. has assembled and has the potential to bring home a batch of medals.

While much of the media attention has zeroed in on Ibtihaj Muhammad, who will be the first woman to wear a hijab throughout the competition, the sport, or art, fencing in the U.S. has improved by leaps and bounds since the 2012 Olympics. No longer a pushover in world competition, several of the U.S. fencers are ranked high in the world and favored in their discipline, including the Asian/Americans.

Gerek Meinhardt, Taiwanese/American

Discipline: Men’s foil

Hometown: San Francisco

Age: 25

Olympic Experience: He’ll compete in his third Olympic Games in Rio. Meinhardt was the youngest Olympic fencer in U.S. history when he made his debut at age 18 in Beijing in 2008.

Journey to Rio: Meinhardt’s road to his third Olympic Games included a No. 1 world ranking in 2014. He was the first U.S. men’s foil fencer to achieve the top ranking, and he was the first to win a world championship medal when he won a bronze medal in 2010. He won another bronze medal at the 2015 world championships and added a silver medal, behind teammate Alexander Massialas’ gold, in the 2015 Pan American Games.

Quick Fact: In the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, Meinhardt was the youngest man on the entire U.S. Olympic Team.

Quote: "I would love to win an individual Olympic medal, but doing it as a team with these friends would be special and a testament to our coach Greg Massialas, who has elevated USA men's foil to world prominence."

Alexander Massialas, Taiwanese/American

Discipline: Men’s foil

Hometown: San Francisco

Age: 22

Olympic Experience: He made his Olympic debut in 2012 as the youngest man on the U.S. Olympic team. Massialas finished 13th in the individual competition and fourth in team. Two years before the London Games, Massialas won a silver medal in the Youth Olympic Games.

Journey to Rio: Massialas rose to a No. 1 world ranking earlier this year. He qualified for Rio at a tournament in February in Bonn, Germany. He won individual and team gold medals in the 2015 Pan American Games and a silver medal in the 2015 world championships.

Quick Fact: Alexander is coached by his dad, Greg, a three-time U.S. Olympic fencer and the men’s foil Olympic coach.

Quote: "I try to stay as much of a kid as possible."

Lee Kiefer, Filipino/American

Discipline: Women’s foil

Hometown: Lexington, Kentucky

Age: 21

Olympic Experience: Kiefer placed fifth in the individual competition, and sixth in the team, when she made her Olympic debut in the 2012 Games.

Journey to Rio: A silver medal in the La Havane Grand Prix helped Kiefer obtain a No. 6 world ranking (tops in the United States) and her second Olympic team berth. She won gold medals in both the individual and team competitions in the 2015 Pan American Games.

Quick Fact: She practices against her boyfriend, Gerek Meinhardt (See above.)

Quote: "It's always nice in fencing if you're tall and left-handed. I'm neither. I'm a short, right handed-fencer,"