Olympics 2012: Top Five U.S. Fencers to Watch

Yahoo Contributor Network

The 2012 Olympic fencing competitions may be fierce when they begin on July 28. As the world's greatest fencers gather, many viewers may think of athletes from Europe where fencing was born. In fact, European fencing guilds date back to the 1400s. But the U.S. Olympic fencing team will be bringing some firepower of its own.

Here are five U.S. fencing phenoms expected to contend for gold:

1. Mariel Zagunis, women's sabre: Zagunis has already brought home the gold in Athens (2004) and Beijing (2008). This aggressive southpaw learned a valuable lesson in '04 when she failed to make the U.S. Olympic team. She slipped in as an alternate, and now Zagunis will be vying for her third straight Olympic gold medal.

2. Alexander Massialas, men's foil: Massialas is the youngest U.S. fencer in the 2012 Olympics and one of the most promising. The son of U.S. fencing coach Greg Massialas, Alexander won back-to-back Cadet World Championships (2010,2011) and most recently took home team gold and individual silver at the Pan American Championships. Massialas' athletic gifts and knowledge of the sport should put him in contention for a medal in London.

3.Gerek Meinhardt, men's foil: Gerek Meinhardt is a fencing prodigy that started competing by the age of 11. Among his many accomplishments, Meinhardt became the first U.S. men's foil fencer to medal at the Senior World Championships in 2010. Last year, Gerek took the gold for the Olympic Test Event. He will push Massialas in hopes of taking it in the actual Olympics this year.

4.Kelley Hurley, women's epee: Hurley placed a disappointing 20th during the 2008 Beijing Olympics. She did not let that slow her down though, and Hurley managed to take home a gold medal at the 2011 Pan American Championships. Hurley may use memories of 2008 to inspire her 2012 performance, but only time will tell.

5.Miles Chamley-Watson, men's foil: London born U.S. immigrant Chamley-Watson may have additional motivation to do well in 2012. In the 2012 Pan American Championships, Chamley-Watson received team gold but only achieved eighth place in the individuals. Chamley-Watson will have friends and family from both sides of the Atlantic watching on as he presses for glory.

The U.S. fencing team took home seven medals at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. With these five talented and motivated athletes spearheading the U.S. in the 2012 Olympics, there are high hopes of improving that total.

Christopher Beheler has followed the Olympics since 1984. Christopher became a fan of fencing after attending lessons for a stage play.

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