August 3, 2012

Morehouse '00, U.S. saber squad finish eighth at London Olympics

(photo courtesy fencing.net)

LONDON -- Brandeis graduate Tim Morehouse, Class of 2000, had a tremendous performance in the individual sabre fencing competition at the London Olympics , reaching the quarterfinals with a pair of upsets and finishing in eighth place after entering the tournament as the 27th seed. In team competition, the 2008 silver medalists were unable to repeat their performance, placing eighth overall.

Seeded eighth headed into the tournament, the U.S. faced top-seeded Russia in the opening round on August 3. Though the Americans had won two of their three bouts against the Russians in the individual tournament, the Russians prevailed in the team competition, 45-33. Morehouse faced Veniamin Reshetnikov in the third round with the U.S. trailing, 10-5.  Despite having won the showdown between them in individual action, Morehouse suffered a 5-2 loss in team. After Morehouse fell in Round 6 to the second-seeded individual, Aleksei Yakimenko, by a 5-3 score, the U.S. was down 30-17 with three bouts to go. Though the American edged their opponents, 16-15, including 5-5 between Morehouse and Nikolay Kovalev down the stretch, it was far too little too late. The Russians went on to finish in fourth place, getting upset by Romania, 45-43, in the semifinals and falling to Italy in the bronze-medal match, 45-39.

In the consolation bracket, the U.S. met China, who fell to finalist Romania in the opening round. The Chinese defeated the Americans by a 45-28 score. Morehouse lost all three bouts, 5-3, 5-4 and 5-1.

In the seventh-place match between the U.S. and Belarus, the U.S. stayed close, and on two occasions Morehouse had them within one point of the European squad. He tied his first bout with Aliaksei Likhacheuski, 5-5, and edged Aliaksandr Buikevich, 6-5, to get the Americans with 35-30 at the end of Round Six. Unfortunately, Belarus was victorious in each of the three final bouts, with Dmitri Lapkes avenging a 15-13 loss in the individual tournament with a 5-3 win over Morehouse, helping Belarus to a 45-35 victory. 

The individual competition was held on July 29, Morehouse's 34th birthday. After receiving a first-round bye, Morehouse opened against sixth-seeded Veniamin Reshetnikov of Russia. Morehouse got off to a quick start and maintained his early lead, opening up an 8-5 lead after the first period. In the second period, the former Judge was nearly unstoppable, scoring seven of the eight touches to take a 15-6 victory and advance to the Round of 16.

"In 08 [when he lost in the opening round], in my first match I got a big lead and then I got ahead of myself, so here I got a big lead and I thought that I want to try and win this. I just wanted to go out and fight and remember that there's no embarrassment no matter what happens and if the victory was there, I'll take it," Morehouse told USFencing.org.

In the next round, Morehouse faced Dmitri Lapkes of Belarus, the tournament's 11th seed. For the second match in a row, Morehouse was ahead 8-5 after the first period. He held the three-point advantage to 12-9, but Lapkes scored four of the next five touches to knot thematch at 13-13. Morehouse rebounded to claim the last two touches and advance.

In the quarterfinals, Morehouse met Italy's Diego Occhiuzi, the 14th seed. After the American scored the first two touches of the match, he found the shoe was on the other foot at the end of the first period, falling behind by the same 8-5 score by which he led his first two matches. Morehouse was never able to recover, and though he got within 12-8 at one point, Occhuizi went on to take the 15-9 victory. Occhuizi went on to reach the podium and take the silver medal after falling to Hungarian Aron Szilagyi in the gold-medal match.

"My goal was to try and win the tournament and give it everything I had and I did that out there … I had two great matches today which I'm really happy about. Tactically, I think I got a little too much into his game and dancing around and talking to the refs, but that's on me in terms of focus and concentrating, but he's a great fencer" Morehouse told USFencing.org. "Overall, it's a solid day for me. Not quite what I wanted, but I'll take away any lessons I can from this experience."

In addition to Morehouse's terrific run, teammate Daryl Homer also reached the quarterfinals with a pair of upsets, including second-seed  Aleksei Yakimenko of Russia, a three-time European champion, in the opening round. The U.S. men placed two sabre fencers among the final eight for the first time since 1948, according to US Fencing.

Morehouse - a 2009 Brandeis Athletic Hall of Fame inductee and the 2000 NCAA Sabre Fencer of the Year - will have an opportunity to earn his second career Olympic medal in the team competition. On Friday August 3, the eighth-seeded Americans face top-seeded Russia at 11:30 a.m. London time/6:30 a.m. Eastern. Morehouse and the US sabre squad were surprise silver-medalists in Beijing in 2008.

"We were underdogs there, we'll be underdogs here, but it's the same thing. We're gonna fight as hard as we can and, at the end of the day, we just want to make our country proud. I think I did that and Daryl did that as well," Morehouse said. "I know in big spots I'm generally going to fence well and I don't know that that's going to guarantee I'm going to win, but … I think people know we can fence and it's on us to perform. It's the Olympics and you've gotta take your shots."


ADDITIONAL LINKS: Video highlights http://www.nbcolympics.com/video/fencing/piste-3-mens-individual-sabre-r64-through-qf.html

Men's sabre photo album: http://www.nbcolympics.com/photos/fencing/day-two-mens-individual-sabre.html

Tournament Recap: http://www.nbcolympics.com/news-blogs/fencing/upsets-headline-mens-individual-sabre-tournament.html

USFencing.org Recap: http://usfencing.org/news/2012/07/29/daryl-homer-and-tim-morehouse-place-sixth-and-eighth-in-mens-saber-at-the-olympic-games/50226

(story by Adam Levin, sports information director - sportsinfo@brandeis.edu)