Men’s Sabre Team Picks Up Silver Medal at Pan Am Games
July 24 – The Canadian men’s sabre team was hoping for a fairy tale ending to long-time national team member Mark Peros’ fencing career, but alas, the Americans meddled with the perfect ending once more.
The men’s sabre team of Joseph Polossifakis, Shaul Gordon and Peros took home a silver medal on Thursday night, fighting to the bitter end against a strong American trio that ultimately took down the Canadians by a score of 45-37.
“They are very good fencers,” said Gordon of the Americans, “We started off strong. It was Mark’s last competition and we battled. Personally, I made some technical mistakes near the end of the match, and even though they were little things, it’s what makes the difference.
“While we’re disappointed, (winning a Pan Am Medal) is still incredible, especially that I did it with these two guys. It’s been a nice journey.”
The 39-year-old Peros ended his Canadian national team career with a fantastic day of fencing, and admitted that the fact that this was his last time in the red-and-white made a big difference.
“Of course it does,” he said of the impact of his impending retirement, “You always want to finish strong, and I think I did. I haven’t fenced like that all year, and it’s I guess it’s due to being here (at home).
“The whole experience has been amazing. I thought we really meshed as a team – that was our best bout of the entire year. We came here wanting to win. We started off strong, there were a couple of errors in the middle there, but the most important thing is that we all fought really hard, as a team. You either win as a team or you lose as a team.”
The men’s team, led by national coach Benjamin Manano, started their day off with a dominant performance against Colombia, whom they beat by a wide margin, 45-25. Polossifakis got off to a rough start, but rounded into his usual form to put point after point on the board – but it was Peros who really stole the show the rest of the way.
It was clear that he was going to make the most of his final moments in the spotlight, as he practically unstoppable in his three bouts against Colombia.
The Canadian men then faced off against the Venezuelan team of Jesus Carvajal, Eliecer Romero and Jose Quintero, who gave the Canadians all they could handle in what Polossifakis described as a “gruelling” semi-final match that Canada ultimately won by a score of 45-40.
The Canadian trio jumped out to a 15-7 lead after three bouts, but Quintero scored twelve hits in the fourth bout to bring the score to 20-19. The two sides went back and forth for several more bouts until Gordon put the Canadians ahead by three, 40-37, setting the stage for Polossifakis to end the match and secure Canada a spot in the finals against the Americans.
The final started well for Canada. The Canadians held the lead from the second bout through the sixth, but the Americans began to pull away in the seventh when Jeff Spear put seven touches on the board to put the Americans ahead by two. Polossifakis and Gordon tried valiantly to regain the lead, but Eli Dershwitz and Daryl Homer were able to seal the deal for the Americans in the final two bouts.
On the women’s side, Gabriella Page, Marissa Ponich and Pamela Brind’Amour did not get off to the start that they wanted, as they lost their quarter-final bout to Cuba by a score of 45-39. The Cubans got out to an early lead and never relinquished it – and while all three Canadians went on long, high scoring runs, they were ultimately unable to catch up.
“We didn’t start (the Cuba match) well,” said Brind’Amour, “I didn’t do well, none of us did that well. We tried to make a comeback at the end but it wasn’t enough.
“In the other two matches we jumped out to leads early, so it gave us a lot of confidence. We’re not used to having the crowd cheer us on like they were, so it can create some pressure on us to perform, but we were able to relax and just have fun and use the crowd as motivation.”
The crowd took an unintended cue from the team when they started their pre-bout chant, tuned to Queen’s “We Will Rock You”, as the entire bleachers began clapping their hands and stomping their feet along with them.
“At first I didn’t really respond to the crowd, I’m kind of shy, but once you get used to it you realize how cool it is to have all these people here encouraging us. It’s motivating.”
They rebounded nicely in their first placement match, defeating El Salvador by a score of 45-32. Ponich gave Canada a 15-11 lead in the third bout – a lead they did not relinquish for the rest of the bout. The victory moved Canada into the fifth place bout against Brazil, which they also won, by a final score of 45-38. Once again, Ponich gave Canada the lead with six touches in the third bout, then combined with Brind’Amour to extend the lead to eight in the seventh and eighth bouts, paving the way for Page to finish off the Brazilians and end the match.
The men’s and women’s epee teams will take to the piste tomorrow in the second to last event of the week.