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U.S. flagbearer Mariel Zagunis fails to medal in women's sabre

By Jerry Hinnen | College Football Writer

U.S. flagbearer and gold favorite Mariel Zagunis will go home from London without a medal, suffering two disappointing losses in the medal rounds of the women's individual sabre competition.

Zagunis is the two-time defending gold medalist in the event and entered London as the world's No. 1-ranked fencer in the sabre. She looked well on her way to clinching a medal when she took an early 8-2 lead on South Korea's Kim Jiyeon in Wednesday's semifinal.

Zagunis eventually pushed her advantage to 12-5, only three points away from winning the first-to-15 match. But Kim rallied, penetrating Zagunis's defense repeatedly and pulling within 13-12. Kim then won the final three points of the match to win 15-13.

Zagunis faced Ukraine's Olga Kharlan in the bronze medal match and never seemed comfortable after her collapse against Kim. She held a slim 8-6 lead before landing in 10-10 tie, but from there Kharlan won the final five points to claim the bronze.

Zagunis's fall from the podium continues an intensely frustrating London Games for the U.S. fencing contingent, which has yet to win a medal after taking six in Beijing. Seth Kelsey had two chances to break that drought in Wednesday's men's epee competition, making a surprise run to the semifinals that included an upset of medal favorite Nikolai Novosjolov of Estonia.

But Kelsey lost to Venezuela's Ruben Limardo Gascon 6-5 in sudden-death extra time in the semifinal, sending him to the bronze medal match against South Korea's Jung Jinsung.

As he had against Gascon, Kelsey scored a late touch to tie Jung at 11 and send the match into sudden-death. But again he gave up the critical touch and finished fourth.

 
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