By Rebecca Harris | @MsRebeccaHarris
RIO DE JANEIRO — The U.S. women’s fencing contingent found a reason to celebrate as the women’s saber team won the bronze medal, beating Italy 45-30 and matching the 2008 bronze-medal finish in Beijing. The team saber event was not included in London.
The group included the most-decorated U.S. fencer of all time, Mariel Zagunis, who was on the 2008 team and now adds a fourth Olympic medal to her collection. She also has 13 world championship medals. Dagmara Wozniak earned her first Olympic medal after being an alternate in Beijing and placing eighth individually in London. Ibtihaj Muhammad and Monica Aksamit, appearing in their first Olympics, also won their first medals.
Wozniak was up first, defeating Rossella Gregorio 5-2. The Americans never relinquished that early lead.
The team was disappointed in the individual event, each of the fencers falling out of the competition by the Round of 16. While the group fell to the Russians in the semifinals, looking timid and shaken, they presented a strong and united front against the Italians.
When Muhammad started to lose ground against her opponent, Irene Vecchi, veteran Zagunis was the level head, calling “It’s OK, it’s OK” from behind the piste. Muhammad was denied a review and channeled her frustration into an immediate point. She 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, Wozniak extended the lead again to 40-27 overall. Zagunis anchored the team, closing out with a 5-3 bout, and being engulfed in hugs from her teammates with the final touch.