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Top fencing stories to watch in Rio

2016 NBCUniversal Media, LLC

Top fencing stories to watch in Rio

From Ibtihaj Muhammad's debut as the first U.S. Olympian to compete in a hijab to Italy's domination on the piste, here is what you need to ...

U.S. men’s foil team poised to end medal drought
The U.S. men have not secured a team foil medal in over 80 years, but the current squad of Gerek Meinhardt, Alex Massialas and Miles Chamley-Watson, along with alternate Race Imboden, will look to change that. The United States is the only nation that can boast its entire team is currently ranked in world's top-20. 

Mariel Zagunis looking for spot on podium 
Mariel Zagunis will make her fourth consecutive Olympic appearance. The sabre fencer won gold at the Athens Games, the first time a women’s individual sabre event was contested. Zagunis defended her title at the 2088 Games but fell short in London. She lost in the semifinals and again in the Bronze Medal Bout and left with disappointing fourth place finish. Zagunis will look to take back her title in Rio. 

Hurley Sisters
U.S. sisters Courtney and Kelly Hurley will return to the Games to make their second and third Olympic appearances, respectively. While both sisters have Olympic experience, this will be the first edition of the Games that both sisters will compete in the individual competition, meaning that, while unlikely, a sister-sister duel could occur. The sisters will also compete together in the women’s team eee competition. 

Brazil’s best hope lies in Italian epee fencer
Brazil holds no Olympic medals but will look to change that with epee fencer Nathalie Moellhausen. Moellhausen, born in Milan, made her Olympic debut in London with the Italian team. In 2014, she opted to fence for Brazil as her maternal grandmother was born in the host nation. Currently ranked 24th in the world, Moellhausen is the only fencer set to represent Brazil at the Rio Games. 

Italian women to continue foil dominance
With the sport claiming roots in Italy, it should come as no surprise that the country tops the women’s all-time medal standings. The nation took the most medals at the London, Beijing and Athen Games. While Italian women still appear strong, they’ll be missing Valentina Vezzali, a five-time Olympian who has won a medal in every Olympic event she’s competed in. Because a team foil event will not be contested at the Rio Games, the competition to qualify for only two individual quota spots was fierce. Vezzali failed to qualify in the individual event and went on to retire from the sport in April 2016. 

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