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Eli Dershwitz’s decade-long quest yields U.S. fencing history at world championships

Eli Dershwitz

US Eli Dershwitz (L) celebrates after winning the Sabre Men’s Senior Individual second semifinal against Hungary’s Aron Szilagyi (R), as part of the FIE Fencing World Championships at the Fair Allianz MI.CO (Milano Convegni) in Milan, on July 25, 2023. (Photo by Andreas SOLARO / AFP) (Photo by ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP via Getty Images)

AFP via Getty Images

For Eli Dershwitz, a decade competing on fencing’s highest level led up to Tuesday, when he became the second U.S. man to win an individual world title, and the first in sabre.

Dershwitz, a 27-year-old, two-time Olympian, won six bouts in Milan, Italy, capped by a 15-6 victory over No. 1-ranked Sandro Bazadze of Georgia in the final.

His most dramatic win came in the semifinals. Dershwitz rallied from a 10-4 deficit to beat Hungarian Áron Szilágyi, the three-time reigning Olympic gold medalist and defending world champion.

“I’ve been working most of my life for this moment, this tournament, and towards Paris 2024,” Dershwitz said. “Hoping my third Olympic Games is the one.”

The other U.S. man to win an individual world title was Miles Chamley-Watson in foil in 2013.

Dershwitz, who in 2015 became the first U.S. man to win a world junior sabre title, actually made his senior worlds debut in 2013 as a rising high school senior.

He lost his opening bout at his first three worlds and in his Olympic debut in 2016.

After winning 2017 and 2018 NCAA titles at Harvard, he broke through at the 2018 Worlds with a silver medal and vaulted to No. 1 in the world rankings.

Dershwitz went into the Tokyo Olympics ranked No. 2 and lost in the round of 16 to South Korean Kim Jung-Hwan, who had beaten him in the 2018 Worlds final.

Since, Dershwitz dropped to No. 13 in the world and entered these world championships with finishes of 19th, 17th, 34th and seventh in his most recent international competitions. He’s now back up to No. 2.

Next year, Dershwitz will look to become the fourth U.S. fencer to win individual Olympic gold. The lone man to do so was Albertson Van Zo Post, who won the single sticks event at the 1904 St. Louis Games, which included a field of three men, all Americans.

NBC Sports’ Charlotte Edmonds contributed to this report from Milan.