'Best U.S. team' set for high profile in Brazil

Thu Jul 28, 2016 1:26am EDT
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By Brad Haynes

SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Looking to fill a rare gap on its medal shelf, Team USA is sending the strongest fencing squad in memory to Rio, helped along by a generation of Olympic elders that has expanded the sport's frontiers.

Of the five sports contested in every summer Olympics, fencing is the only one where U.S. men have not won gold.

The Americans aim to make history this year with an exceptionally deep bench, including seven athletes ranked among the top 10 globally in their events.

"Across the board, this is one of the strongest American fencing teams -- if not the strongest -- in modern history," said Greg Massialas, a three-time Olympian coaching the men's foil team.

NBC has taken notice and will devote more television time to fencing at the Rio Games than any U.S. broadcaster has before.

Programs opened by Massialas and his Olympic peers in recent decades have deepened and diversified the American talent pool, with fencers starting younger and aiming higher than ever.

The best shot at the podium this year may be his son, Alexander Massialas, the world No. 1, who anchors a standout foil team with fourth-ranked Gerek Meinhardt and Miles Chamley-Watson, the first American man to take individual gold at a world championship.

Mariel Zagunis, the most decorated American fencer ever, broke the gold drought for the women with top finishes in 2004 and 2008, and she is back this year to try to secure a third.   Continued...

Miles Chamley-Watson of the U.S. holds his mask as he competes against Egypt's Alaaeldin Abouelkassem during their men's individual foil round of 32 fencing competition at the ExCel venue at the London 2012 Olympic Games July 31, 2012.           REUTERS/Damir Sagolj