Smart eliminated by eventual gold medalist
ATHENS, Greece -- The top U.S. saber fencers got knocked out of the Olympic tournament Saturday in the round of 16.
Keeth Smart, who last year became the first American fencer to be ranked No. 1 in the world, stumbled early against Italy's Aldo Montano of Italy and lost 15-7. Montano, who later went on to win the event's gold medal, scored the first five points of the bout, and though Smart pulled within one, he struggled with Montano's attacks and the quick pace of the referee.
"I guess I was a little too excited,'' said Smart, who won his first-round bout against Gael Touya of France. "I was trying to go too fast.''
Montano rallied to defeat Zsolt Nemcsik of Hungary 15-14 in Saturday night's saber final. Montano trailed by four points early in the gold-medal match, but came back to take the lead at 12-11. Nemcsik tied it at 12, and the finalists split the next four points, setting the stage for a deciding touch.
Nemcsik retreated slightly on the play, and Montano thrust forward to make the touch and win. He then sprinted to the end of the strip in jubilation, while Nemcsik took off his helmet in disbelief.
Ivan Lee, who like Smart is from New York and first learned fencing at the Peter Westbrook Foundation, defeated Gianpiero Pastore of Italy 15-9 in the first round, but then had to face four-time gold medalist Stanislav Pozdniakov. The Russian dominated the bout, taking 12 of the first 16 points. He won 15-9.
Jason Rogers of Los Angeles lost 15-3 in the first round to Luigi Tarantino of Italy.
Montano won his next bout after beating Smart, and advanced to the evening's semifinals, along with 2003 world champion Vladislav Lukashenko of Ukraine, Dmitri Lapkes of Belarus and Zsolt Nemcsik of Hungary.
Westbrook, who competed in five Olympics for the United States, started a program in New York in 1991 to teach fencing to inner-city youth. Four of the 14 American fencers competing in Athens are products of his foundation. Westbrook is also the last U.S. fencer to win an Olympic medal -- a bronze in 1984.
Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press
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