The Olympics never seem to disappoint when it comes to thrilling matches and surprise results.
Twenty-one-year-old Sada Jacobson ’06 experienced both on August 17, when she took the bronze medal in the sabre portion of the Olympic fencing competition. In doing so, Jacobson became the first female American fencer ever to medal at the Olympics. Despite her historic bout against Romania’s Catalina Gheorghitoaia in the bronze medal match, Jacobson’s finish sent her home with a darker tinted medal than expected, as her No. 1 world ranking had many speculating that the two-time NCAA champion saberist would return home wearing gold around her neck.
“It is an incredible feeling. I won a medal at the Olympic Games — it is unbelievable. I came here for the gold but I am very happy to win the bronze one,” she said. “Maybe I will be luckier in four years’ time and take the gold medal.”
Gold may have evaded Jacobson, but it did not evade the U.S. fencing team, as 19-year old American underdog Mariel Zagunis, a freshman at the University of Notre Dame, staged an impressive upset in the gold medal round of the sabre event against Xue Tan, China’s former World Champion. Zagunis won in aggressive fashion, 15-9. Tan had ended Jacobson’s gold medal hopes earlier in the semifinals, defeating her 15-12.
Despite having taken the bronze with her No. 1 ranking, Jacobson has said she was excited for Zagunis and pleased with her own results.
Jacobson’s bronze medal was not the only first for Olympic fencing this year, as it was the first time the women’s sabre event was featured at the Games. In the past, female fencers only competed with the foil or the epee as weapons.
The epee, foil and sabre are all approximately 35 inches in length, but the weights and the rules for scoring with each differ. The foil weighs less than one pound, and points are scored when the blade lands anywhere within the torso of the opponent’s body. The epee is significantly heavier and touching the blade’s tip to any part of an opponent’s body scores points. The sabre most resembles the foil in length and weight, but stylistically it is used as a thrusting weapon. Points are scored in the sabre from the bend of the hips to the top of the head, and unlike the other two weapons, touches with both the tip and the edge of the blade count as legal hits.
Fencing also showcases a competitor’s quickness in both the offensive and counter attack aspects of the sport.