He didn't quite achieve his goal of a gold medal but native San Franciscan Alexander Massialis has reinforced the city as a fencing center after winning a silver medal in the individual foil
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Massialis wins silver to help showcase San Francisco as fencing hub

August 8, 2016

Up until the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro not only was there not a lot of publicity about the sport of fencing in the country but not even right here in the Bay Area and San Francisco which has traditionally had the best fencers in the United States.

The reality is most people didn’t know the World’s top-ranked fencer was a native San Franciscan or that fencing has been a part of the scene in the city for 74 years.

Last night in Rio he reached the pinnacle of the sport but as is sometimes the case Alex Massialis didn’t win the Gold Medal but instead won a Silver Medal in the individual foil after losing to man he had never lost to before, Italian Daniele Garozzo.

The loss was devastating to the Drew-San Francisco grad and current Stanford mechanical engineering student, but it was still the first individual medal by an American in fencing since 1984 and the first Silver Medal by a U.S. fencer in foil since 1932.

Massialis father, Greg Massialis, who operates the Massialis Academy in the Outer Sunset District of San Francisco and is an Olympic coach, was himself a three-time Olympian on the 1980 team that boycotted the games, and he competed in 1984 and 1988. His sister, Sabrina Massialis, is also a Drew graduate that trains at the Massialis Academy. She now fences for Notre Dame and is one of the top women fencers in the nation.

CIF San Francisco Section has fencing tradition

Some people in San Francisco do know the city has a long tradition of fencing. In fact the CIF San Francisco Section is the only section in California that offers fencing as a sport and holds a section championship called the San Francisco All-City Tournament.

“At this time we are the only section in the state that has fencing, and because of that we have CIF North Coast Section schools that get an exemption from the NCS to participate with us and we’re glad to have them. We do the same for Lowell with the Central Coast Section for gymnastics,” CIFSF Commissioner Donald Collins said.

Massialis school Drew is not involved but University, Stuart Hall, Urban and Convent of the Sacred Heart are and do quite well.

This year’s Junior Men’s Foil winner was Ben Hadler of Lowell with second place going to Zack Hammer of Stuart Hall and third place to Kevin Lu of Lowell. The Junior Women’s Foil champion was Erika Wong of Convent of the Sacred Heart with second place going to Bea Gee of Convent. The third-place winner was Rose Fajans of Urban.

Because fencing like many other sports is club oriented Collins and his staff have to be sure the club and school competition is kept separate.

“We work with USA Fencing to be sure no CIF club sport bylaws are violated,” Collins remarked.

The CIFSF tradition of competitive fencing goes back to the first championships held in 1957 but one club was around before that and was part of the impetus for creating the high school competition.

Fencing in San Francisco goes back 74 years

The Massialis Academy has been around a bit and there are some excellent clubs in the East Bay and South Bay, but the granddaddy of fencing clubs in the Bay Area is upstairs from what used to be an auto repair shop at 621 South Van Ness Avenue. The Halberstadt Fencers’ Club was founded in 1942 by Hans Halberstadt, an internationally accomplished fencer, Olympian and coach.

Halberstadt is still one of the top clubs in the United States and according to Collins many of the young men and women that are in the CIFSF competition train at the Mission District club.

As for Massialis, he still has a shot at another gold, silver or bronze medal when he and his teammates compete later this week in the team competition. They finished fourth in 2012 in London where Massialis finished 13th individually. Not surprisingly, one of his teammates is another San Franciscan from Massialis Academy, Gerek Meinhardt.

So there you have it, not only is San Francisco home to some social media giants, and the baseball Giants, but the top fencers not only in the country but the entire world.

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