Cloud Of Controversy
Ukraine's Yana Shemyakina captured the gold medal in the women's epee competition Monday. But it came following one of the biggest controversies the sport has ever seen. Shin A-lam cheated? »Alberto Pizzoli/Getty Images
Mariel Zagunis fell short of a third consecutive gold medal in saber at the World Fencing Championships on Wednesday, taking home the silver medal after losing to Russia's Sophia Velikaia in the final.
"I feel like I fenced really well today until the final seconds of the final bout. I should've clinched the final when I was up 13-8, but, unfortunately, I lost a little focus," Zagunis said in a statement released by USA Fencing. "There was a call that I thought was going to be my attack and instead it was called simultaneous, and instead of taking a second to kind of reset and process what just happened, I started running at her because I just wanted to finish the bout and that was exactly the opposite of what I should have done against her ... She was pretty lost at 13-8 and I just handed her a couple touches and she finished it out."
U.S. women's national team coach Ed Korfanty, who is also Zagunis' personal coach, said it is hard to repeat on such a big stage.
"She's won this event twice and the Olympics before that and it's very hard to repeat four, five times in a row," he told USA Fencing. "Now she needs to rest and take care of herself and next year we will be ready for London."
Lee Kiefer won bronze at the World Fencing Championships on Tuesday, becoming just the second U.S. woman to earn an individual foil medal at the event and the first since Iris Zimmermann accomplished the feat in 1999.
Kiefer, 17, beat Poland's Martyna Synoradzka 15-12 to reach the semifinal round, but fell 15-10 against three-time defending Olympic champion Valentina Vezzali of Italy.
"It's hard to be happy with yourself when you don't win, but I'm happy with myself," Kiefer told USA Fencing. "Fencing Vezzali and those girls has given me so much more confidence. I started doing seniors three years ago and when I fenced the worlds, that was just my second event as a senior ever.
"I started then and everyone was so strong that it was really depressing coming from Y14 and cadet events. Fencing people who were so much better was kind of a low point and I was really miserable. But the more I improve on people, the more confidence I get now."
The worlds continue Wednesday with men's epee and women's saber, where Mariel Zagunis will vie for her third straight world title.
• Life in Japan won't be anything approaching normal for a long time, and that includes the sporting scene. Other international federations are going to have to weigh the same factors the International Skating Union did when it first postponed, then relocated, the World Figure Skating Championships from Tokyo (where the event was scheduled for last week) to Moscow. The World Gymnastics Championships, the main qualifying event for London 2012, are slated for Tokyo in October, and international gymnastics officials said they'll decide next month whether the site is still appropriate. They have the luxury of weeks, rather than days, to analyze the situation. Here's hoping their choice is based on what's right for the athletes, rather than what's politically correct or sponsor-driven.