Tiger Woods, John Elway, and Mariano Rivera could sit down and learn something from Keeth Smart ‘s preformace in the 2008 Olympics. The US came into the team event ranked 7th and expectations were low with out US steadfast Ivan Lee.
The pressure was on for the US to pick up the slack without Lee and nobody stepped up better than the leader of the team, Keeth Smart. The team format features two teams of three fencers, they fencing in increments of 5 going to 45 inheriting the score of the fencers before them. In 2004 Smart lead two outstanding comebacks in the medal rounds that fell just short losing to France and Russia 44-45.
In the quarterfinal round the US faced #2 Hungary armed with one of the most respect and highly rated fencers in the world Zsolt Nemcsik and 18-year-old star Aron Szilagyi. The scrappy US team kept pace with the Hungarians in part thanks to Jason Rogers bringing the US back to within a touch in the final round but they entered the final bout down 36-40 with Smart facing Nemcsik. Smart outscored Nemcsik 9-4 in the final round to beat the Hungarians 45-44.
It was a performance that he would top in the semifinals against #3 Russia. The US jumped out to an early lead 15-9 at the end of the first round. At the start of the second round Alexey Yakimenko ran off 11 touches on Rogers to put the Russians ahead 20-19. And the deficit only grew reaching 35-28, Tim Morehouse gained some of it back in the second to last bout scoring 7 touches. Smart entered the final round with the greatest Sabrist in the history of the sport Stanislav Pozdnyakov trailing 35-40.
Pozdnyakov took control early and it looked like a repeat of the 2004 defeat of the US by Russia, but Smart found a rhythm on defense and began to close the gap. And injury to Pozdnyakov’s wrist only built the momentum in Smart’s favor, but in a long action Pozdnyakov scored the winning touché and the US lost 43-45. Confusion shortly reigned as replay showed that Keeth had stepped out of bounds in an advantageous position and the action was annulled. Keeth scored the next two touches and the US advanced to the gold medal bout for the first time in Men’s Sabre. Smart had outscored Pozdnyakov, a man with more World Championships than anyone in the history of the weapon, an incredible 10-4.
Even in the loss 37-45 to France for the gold medal Smart scored 20 of the US’ touches, 9 of them in the final bout, almost completing another amazing comeback. Even with this loss to France, the Olympic dream that started in 2004 was finished giving Smart, Rogers and Morehouse who are all likely to retire after this outstanding performance.
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