After finishing tied for third at the NCAA championships two weeks ago, Harvard freshman fencer Eli Dershwitz won the World Junior Saber Title on Tuesday at the Cadet and Junior World Championships held in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. The next day, Dershwitz and his USA junior saber teammates took home a bronze medal in the team saber competition.
“I think [the individual title] was redemption and will boost his confidence, which is very, very important,” Harvard coach Peter Brand said.
Dershwitz, who is currently ranked second in the United States in the senior saber division, will be training for the 2016 Olympic Games in an attempt to make the U.S. saber team.
“He certainly is on his way up—it’s a big jump from a junior world title to the Olympic games, but I think he has good shot,” Brand said. “He dominated this event, which bodes well for his chances, and I think considering his abilities and his maturity...he has a very good chance of making the Olympic team.”
In the individual gold medal bout, Dershwitz defeated Italy’s Francesco Bonsanto, 15-7. Bonsanto had entered the championships as the No. 2 junior saber fencer in the world and had placed second at the 2015 European Junior Championships.
“[Having] fenced with [Dershwitz] since I was in seventh grade and he was in fifth grade, I’ve seen the long process of him being a little kid to moving up in the ranks not only nationally, but internationally [as well],” Crimson junior co-captain Duncan O’Brien said. “The past three years he’s had incredible results, not just in the under-19 category...but also on the senior circuit.”
Early in the bout, Dershwitz jumped out to a 7-2 lead and controlled the pace of the bout, maintaining a comfortable lead throughout.
Up 14-7 after a short review gave him another touch, Dershwitz took off his mask and pumped up the crowd. The decisive point came moments later.
“Whenever you see him on the strip, more than anybody that I’ve seen before in my career, he always has a shot at winning, no matter who he’s facing,” Brand said.
Dershwitz finished the initial pool play round with a 5-1 record, and his plus-17 indicator earned him the ninth seed out of 96 international competitors hailing from a wide breadth of countries such as Qatar, Australia, and Russia.
After receiving a bye in the round of 128, Dershwitz notched 15-7 and 15-12 victories in the rounds of 64 and 32 against Mexico’s Hector Florencia and Kuwait’s Bandar Alshamlan. The round of 16 round saw Dershwitz dismantle higher-seeded Jose Quintero of Venezuela, 15-6.
In the last two bouts leading up to the final, the Harvard standout defeated Russia’s Dmitriy Danilenko, who was the top seed from the pool bouts, and Egypt’s Mohamed Amer by scores of 15-8 and 15-10, respectively.
In the team event, Dershwitz was a key contributor to his team’s third-place finish. Though he was on the losing side of the 45-44 defeat at the hands of the Korean team, Dershwitz bounced back to close out the bronze-medal match against Poland’s Jakub Jaskot, notching the final five touches of the match to clinch the victory.
Dershwitz had a rough start, losing his bout against his Mexico team opponent. However, the U.S. team came back from eight touches down to take the match, 45-40.
Match No. 1 against France’s Edern Annic saw a better result from the Harvard freshman in the round of eight, with Dershwitz taking the bout. Dershwitz also closed out the team match with a win over Charles Colleau, sending the American squad to the semifinal.
“It’s incredible to train with a guy like him,” O’Brien said. “He’s so knowledgeable about the sport…[and] he adds so much to the [Harvard] team, both on and off the strip.”
—Staff writer Caleb Y. Lee can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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