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Three Beaverton fencers headed to the Olympics

Rebecca Ward, Mariel Zagunis and Seth Kelsey win U.S. Olympic berths
by: JAIME VALDEZ, ALL SMILES — Beaverton's Rebecca Ward was all smiles Saturday after winning a national championship in the women's sabre and earning a berth on the U.S. Olympic team.

PORTLAND - From Beaverton to Beijing.

That's the next most important trip coming up for three Beaverton-area fencers, Rebecca Ward, Seth Kelsey and Mariel Zagunis, all of whom punched their tickets to the 2008 Beijing Olympics on Saturday.

Ward, 18, who fences out of the Oregon Fencing Alliance, won the Division I National Championship in the sabre on Saturday at the Portland Convention Center to seal her position atop the U.S. Women's Sabre Team that will compete in the upcoming Summer Olympics in China.

She capped her two-day tournament run by beating Caroline Vloka of the Manhattan Fencing Center 15-12. That victory launches Ward into her first Olympic games competition, set this August in Beijing.

Ward's background includes: a 2006 World

Championship in which she became the youngest champion in history at age 16 and beat Zagunis - the 2004 Olympic sabre champion - in the process. She also was the first fencer to win a triple crown by winning the Cadet, Junior and Senior World Championship titles in a single season.

Zagunis, 23, meanwhile, will have an opportunity to defend her 2004 Olympic medal in the sabre after finishing tied for third in the U.S. Championships. She will join Ward, Sada Jacobson and Dagmara Wozniak on the U.S. Women's sabre team.

Zagunis, also an OFA fencer, has a host of fencing successes in her background, including her '04 Olympic title, a three-year run as Junior World champion from 2002-04, and distinction as the youngest fencer to win an FIE gold medal.

Kelsey, 26, like Ward, will make his first trip to the Olympics as the U.S.'s top epee fencer.

Kelsey is now a three-time National Champion, two-time World Cup bronze medalist, the 2003 NCAA Champion and a four-time All-American in epee.

Kelsey, a graduate of Oregon Episcopal School and former member of the OFA, now trains in Colorado Springs and the New York Athletic Club.