Key dates: Each of the 10 events (six individual, four team) is completed in a single day. Aug. 1 is women's saber day. Venue: ExCeL Exhibition Centre Big story: The United States went from an afterthought to No. 2 in the fencing medal count (six to Italy's seven) in 2008, prompting reactions of disbelief from the traditional European powers. A changed Olympic program (no more team event in women's saber) and a less experienced (and smaller; two instead of three) women's saber group than the trio who swept the individual medals in Beijing will make it nearly impossible for Team USA to match that medal performance in London. Top U.S. prospects: No. 1-ranked Mariel Zagunis (above) will be after her third straight gold medal in women's saber. Reigning world bronze medalist Lee Kiefer, 18, who is headed to Notre Dame after the Olympics, is fifth-ranked in women's foil. Race Imboden, 19, ranked fifth in foil, left Notre Dame for a year to train for the Olympics and then decided against South Bend, preferring to stay near his home in New York. The men's epee team won the world title in May but their event is not on the Olympic program. Others to watch: Foilist Valentina Vezzali, 38, who will be Italy's flag bearer at the opening ceremony, is the only woman to win five fencing golds (three individual, two team.) Vezzali, ranked No. 1, also has won 11 world titles. Little-known fact: Albert Van Zo Post, the only U.S. fencer other than Zagunis to win Olympic gold, did it in an event called single sticks, which appeared on the Olympic program just once (1904). It used wooden sticks rather than steel blades.
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