The United States was assured of winning its first fencing medal in 20 years Tuesday after Sada Jacobson and Mariel Zagunis advanced to the semifinals
in saber competition.
In the quarterfinals, Jacobson beat Leonore Perrus of France 15-11. Perrus knocked out Sada's sister, Emily, 15-13 in the round of 16, preventing the
sisters from playing each other.
"I honestly, really expected Emily to make the (final) eight. I had really thought she was going to do it. I had really prepared myself to fence
her,'' Sada Jacobson said. "I'm sorry she didn't win her bout, but when it comes down to it, it was only going to be one of us, anyway.''
In men's epee competition, Soren Thompson of San Diego upset No. 2 seed Alfredo Rota of Italy to reach the quarterfinals, where he'll face Russia's
Sada Jacobson trailed in the early going against Perrus, but took the lead at 4-3 and never relinquished it, defending her family pride in the
"I don't like anyone beating up on my little sister,'' she said with a smile.
Zagunis, of Beaverton, Ore., defeated Elena Jemayeva of Azerbaijan 15-11 to advance to the semifinals (11:30 a.m. ET), which were scheduled for
Tuesday evening at the Helliniko fencing hall.
The United States has never won a medal in women's fencing. The last American medal in the sport was in Los Angeles in 1984, when Peter Westbrook won
the bronze in men's saber.
Sada Jacobson, from Dunwoody, Ga., and Zagunis are on opposite sides of the bracket, so they could only meet in either the gold- or bronze-medal
bouts. Jacobson will face China's Tan Xue in the semifinals and Zagunis will go up against Catalina Gheorghitoaia of Romania.
Sada Jacobson is ranked No. 1 in the world, and Zagunis is fourth-ranked. Tan is No. 5 and Gheorghitoaia is No. 11.
With so many highly skilled fencers competing, factors beyond skill and preparation come into play.
"At this stage of the game, it's completely mental,'' Zagunis said. "I think that it's really who can play the mental game the best (that) is going to
Women's saber is the newest of fencing's six disciplines and is making its first appearance in the Olympics. The first world championship in women's
saber was held in 1999.
Saber is the fastest of fencing's three weapons. The target area is the entire body above the bend in the hips, including the head. Unlike in foil and
epee, saber fencers can score with either the tip or the edge of the blade.