Looking to fill a rare gap on its medal shelf, Team USA is sending the strongest fencing squad in memory to Rio, helped along by a generation of Olympic elders that has expanded the sport’s frontiers.
Of the five sports contested in every summer Olympics, fencing is the only one where U.S. men have not won gold.
The Americans aim to make history this year with an exceptionally deep bench, including seven athletes ranked among the top 10 globally in their events.
“Across the board, this is one of the strongest American fencing teams — if not the strongest — in modern history,” said Greg Massialas, a three-time Olympian coaching the men’s foil team.
NBC has taken notice and will devote more television time to fencing at the Rio Games than any U.S. broadcaster has before.
Programmes opened by Massialas and his Olympic peers in recent decades have deepened and diversified the American talent pool, with fencers starting younger and aiming higher than ever.
The best shot at the podium this year may be his son, Alexander Massialas, the world No. 1, who anchors a standout foil team with fourth-ranked Gerek Meinhardt and Miles Chamley-Watson, the first American man to take individual gold at a world championship.