Belle Mead Resident Wins Gold Medal in World Fencing Competition
BY KRISTEN HENNEMAN l April 13, 2021
May Tieu, 19, of Belle Mead, added another title to her already impressive resume as she was named the women’s foil Junior World Champion on Tuesday in Cairo, Egypt.
She was a champion on the Montgomery High School Fencing team, and for her Premier Fencing Club and Princeton University, where she is a student.
Winning the Cadet World silver medal and Junior World team gold in 2018, Tieu secured her first individual Junior World medal by taking the top step of the podium and becoming the fifth U.S. women’s fencer to earn gold in the last seven Junior Worlds.
Tieu continues a powerful streak for the U.S. Women’s Foil Team in which a member of Team USA has medaled in the event at every Junior Worlds since 2011.
“It feels so unreal. It’s been such a long time since I’ve had this kind of competition, so it’s very exciting to bring home a gold medal,” Tieu said.
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No. 10 in the world entering the competition, Tieu earned a bye into the table of 64 with a 5-1 record in pools.
After giving up just four points to 2019 Senior World Team member Sonia Zeboudj (ALG), 15-4, the two-time Youth Olympic Games medalist easily controlled her table of 32 bout against two-time Senior World Team member Samantha Catantan (PHI), 15-8.
In the table of 16, Tieu faced five-time Junior World Team member and two-time Junior Pan Am individual medalist Katina Proestakis (CHI) in what would be her closest bout of the day. Down 8-7, Tieu scored four straight points to take an 11-8 lead and went on to win, 15-13.
One win away from a medal, Tieu bested Vitalina Anaschenkova (RUS), 15-9. Tied at three, Tieu went on a 10-3 run and never relinquished her lead.
Down 4-3 at the first break in the semifinals to 2019 Junior World team bronze medalist Yeongji Joo (KOR), Tieu took the momentum to start the second period, scoring the first six touches to go up, 9-4. Up six at the second break, 11-5, Tieu once again opened the period on a run, closing the bout on a 4-0 run for a dominant 15-5 victory.
Fencing for gold, Tieu used another strong close to edge out three-time Junior World Team member Nicole Pustilnik (ISR) and clinch the championship. Close throughout, Tieu broke a 10-10 tie by scoring the next four points and earned the gold medal by a 15-12 score.
Four-time Junior and Cadet World medalist Lauren Scruggs (Ozone, Park, N.Y. / Peter Westbrook Foundation) and two-time Junior World Team member Maia Weintraub (Philadelphia, Pa. / Fencers Club) earned top-eight results.
Entering the competition as the reigning champion in both junior and cadet, Scruggs was perfect in pools at 6-0 to secure the No. 2 seed and a bye to the table of 64, where she blazed past Sabrina Fang (CAN), 15-7, before handing three-time Junior World Team member Ariadna Castro (ESP) a quick loss, 15-6.
Against four-time Junior World Team member Kateryna Budenko (UKR) in the table of 16, Scruggs faced a 9-7 deficit, but scored four straight points to take a two-point lead and never looked back, winning 15-12.
Tied at nine with 2019 Senior World Team member Jessica Guo (CAN) in the quarterfinals, Guo scored two touches to give herself a small cushion. Scruggs cut the gap to one, but Guo ended the bout on a 4-1 run for a 15-11 win and ensuring that a new champion would be named in 2021.
After going 5-1 in pools, Weintraub – who was competing at her first Junior Worlds after last year’s event was canceled due to COVID-19 – held her first three direct elimination opponents to single digits, cruising past Wan Yin Chung (HKG), 15-7 and two-time Senior World Team member Miriam Schreiber (SWE), 15-6.
In the table of 16, Weintraub fenced 2017 Cadet World Champion Adelina Bikbulatova (RUS), who had eliminated teammate and two-time Junior World Team member Zander Rhodes (South Orange, N.J. / V Fencing Club) in the 64. Down 6-4, Weintraub held Bilbulatova scoreless the rest of the way, going on an 11-0 run for a 15-6 victory.
However, in the quarters, Weintraub lost to Pustilnik, 15-11. Although Weintraub was up 9-7, Pustilnik responded for four consecutive touches to take the lead. Weintraub came back to tie the score at 11, but Pustilnik has the answer once again, finishing on another 4-0 run.
In the junior men’s foil event, 2018 Cadet World silver medalist Marcello Olivares (Cooper City, Fla. / Notre Dame) and 2018 Cadet World Champion Kenji Bravo (San Francisco, Calif. / Massialas Foundation / Harvard) claimed Team USA’s top results with top-eight finishes.
All four members of Team USA went 6-0 in pools and earned byes to the table of 64 with Olivares taking the No. 1 seed.
In the direct elimination rounds, Olivares defeated two-time Cadet World Team member Leopold Marc Kuchta (SVK), 15-9, before easily controlling his table of 32 bout against Oleh Kokorovets (UKR), 15-6.
Up 6-5 against 2017 Junior World Team member Suhwan Lee (KOR) in the 16, Olivares went on a 6-1 run to open up a 12-6 advantage and held on for a 15-11 victory.
The quarterfinals saw Olivares face a five-point deficit against Stepan Martynovich (RUS) early, but the 2021 NCAA Champion cut the deficit to two at 8-6. However, Martynovich went on 6-1 run and ended Olivares’ day, 15-8, and he finished fifth.
Bravo, a two-time Youth Olympic Games medalist, didn’t give up more than eight points in first three bouts. After cruising past 2019 Cadet Pan Am bronze medalist Niklas Holland (CAN), 15-5, Bravo bested 2018 Youth Olympic Games Team member Lawrence Everett Tan (PHI), 15-8 and Jongsik Kim (KOR), 15-5.
Looking to guarantee a medal, Bravo came out of the gates strong in the quarterfinals, building an 8-1 lead. But Dongyun Choi (KOR) proved too much to handle with Bravo losing on the final touch, 15-14. Choi went on to take silver.
Daniel Zhang (Belmont, Mass. / Star Fencing Academy) and Ashton Daniel (Morristown, N.J. / Silicon Valley Fencing Center / Columbia), who were both competing at their first Junior Worlds, finished in the top 32.
Zhang, who will also compete in the cadet event, overcame Mario Diaz Escalona (ESP), 15-7, in the 64, but was outtcouhed by Mukhammad Yusuf Asranov (UZB), 15-14, in the following round.
Daniel gave up just four points in his table of 64 bout against three-time Junior World Team member Alexandru Pirva (ROU), 15-4 before being edged out by Martynovich, 15-13.
Top eight and U.S. results are as follows:
Women’s Foil Junior World Championships
1. May Tieu (Belle Mead, N.J.)
2. Nicole Pustilnik (ISR)
3. Yeongji Joo (KOR)
3. Jessica Guo (CAN)
5. Lauren Scruggs (Ozone, Park, N.Y.)
6. Olga Sopit (UKR)
7. Vitalina Anaschenkova (UKR)
8. Maia Weintraub (Philadelphia, Pa.)
33. Zander Rhodes (South Orange, N.J.)
Men’s Foil Junior World Championships
1. Zakhar Kozlov (RUS)
2. Dongyun Choi (KOR)
3. Constant Roger (FRA)
3. Stepan Martynovich (RUS)
5. Marcello Olivares (Cooper City, Fla.)
6. Paul Antoine De Velval (FRA)
7. Kenji Bravo (San Francisco, Calif.)
7. Egor Barannikov (RUS)
17. Daniel Zhang (Belmont, Mass.)
19. Ashton Daniel (Morristown, N.J.)
Kristen Henneman writes for usafencing.org.