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Nick Itkin keeps climbing with another fencing worlds medal

Nick Itkin

CHIBA, JAPAN - JULY 26: Nick Itkin of Team United States huring his bout against Anton Borodachev of Team ROC in Men’s Foil Individual second round on day three of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Makuhari Messe on July 26, 2021 in Chiba, Japan. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

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Nick Itkin took foil silver at the world fencing championships to become the first U.S. man, and third U.S. fencer overall, to win an individual medal at back-to-back worlds.

Italian Tommaso Marini defeated Itkin 15-13 in Thursday’s final in Milan, Italy after Itkin won his first five bouts.

Itkin rallied from an 11-6 deficit in the final, then hurt his right leg while down 13-12 but continued on without a medical timeout.

Itkin, 23, became the third U.S. fencer to win an individual medal at back-to-back worlds after Olympic gold medalists Mariel Zagunis and Lee Kiefer.

“Something about competing on the big stage is extra motivating,” Itkin said, adding that he embraced fencing with the crowd against him. “A couple of tactical mistakes cost me the world championship, but it makes me hungry for the next.”

Last year, Itkin earned his first world medals, team silver and individual bronze. He entered this tournament ranked No. 8 in the world.

Itkin, whose dad fenced in his native Ukraine and mom competed in gymnastics in Ukraine, shook things up in 2021 by making the Olympic team over 2013 World champion Miles Chamley-Watson and making the roster of three for the individual event over former world No. 1 Race Imboden.

He was the only American man to win a foil bout in Tokyo but then lost in his second round. Later, the team took bronze.

The U.S. entered worlds with four of the world’s top 16 men in foil -- No. 1 Alexander Massialas (lost in the second round), No. 3 Gerek Meinhardt (lost in the first round), Itkin and No. 16 Chamley-Watson (lost in the round of 16).

The men’s foil team event at worlds is Sunday.

NBC Sports’ Charlotte Edmonds contributed reporting from Milan.