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More fencing Friday, May 02, 2008

Courtney Hurley (right) can't evade the touch of Hannah Safford as they joust in the women's team epee event at the USFA National Championships Apr. 28 in Portland. Hurley, currently ranked no. 1 in the U.S. in women's epee, led her team from the New York Athletic Club to victory in the team event. The 18-year-old from San Antonio Texas also won the gold medal in the women's individual event. Safford, 17, was second.

With her Uncle Frank watching, Beaverton's Mariel Zagunis explains the scoring area to Kathy Woodman of Portland Apr. 28 during the USFA National Championships in the Rose City. Zagunis, who won the gold medal at the 2004 Olympics, competes in the women's sabre event, where fencers score by touching their opponent in the arms, chest, neck or back.

Daria Schneider (right) goes on the offense in her joust with Mariel Zagunis in the women's individual sabre at the USFA National Championships in Portland. Zagunis scored four of the last five points to win the bout 15-14. The left-hander, currently ranked third in the United States, finished tied for third at this weekend's championships. Schneider was 14th. [below] Zagunis and Schneider both celebrate and look to the referee after a near-simultaneous touch. In these cases, the referee decides who gets the point.

In the fencing world, sabre is considered the polar opposite of epee: in epee, fencers have to connect the smallest part of the sword (the tip) with a fair amount of force against the largest target area (any part of the opponent's body). In sabre, the athletes have a smaller target area (basically the torso and arms), but the slightest graze with the tip or blade counts.

In epee, the action is (relatively) slow and deliberate. Sabre action is so fast, they don't even run the timer—on the "allez" command, the fencers attack each other in a flash and within about three seconds both lights go on indicating that both fencers have touched their opponent.

Unlike epee, though, only one fencer can score in sabre. So as soon as the lights go off, both fencers scream and pump their fists in celebration in an apparent effort to influence the referee's judgement. (In foil, if both fencers score a simultaneous touch, no points are awarded.)

[right] Mariel Zagunis (left) celebrates a 15-14 win over Daria Schneider in the women's individual sabre competition. The first fencer to 15 points wins.

USFA Current point standings
Final results for the 2008 USFA National Championships: ME, MF, MS, WE, WF, WS,