(JTA) — Jewish fencer Eli Dershwitz made history Tuesday at the World Fencing Championships in Milan, Italy, where he became the first American man to win an individual title in sabre.
The 27-year-old two-time Olympian and grandson of Holocaust survivors defeated No. 1-ranked Sandro Bazadze 15-6 in the sabre final.
But Dershwitz’s semifinal victory was perhaps even more notable: Facing Áron Szilágyi, a three-time Olympic gold medalist and the reigning world champion, he came back from a 10-4 deficit to advance to the final round.
“I’ve been working most of my life for this moment, this tournament, and towards Paris 2024,” Dershwitz said, according to NBC Sports. “Hoping my third Olympic Games is the one.”
Dershwitz — who celebrated his bar mitzvah at the Conservative Temple Israel in Natick, Massachusetts, and fenced at Harvard University — won two gold medals at the 2017 Maccabiah Games in Israel.
He represented the United States in the 2016 and 2020 Olympics but failed to medal in either appearance.
Prior to the 2016 Rio Games, Dershwitz told Hillel International that he considers himself a “proud member of the Jewish community.”
“I feel proud to be a Jewish-American Olympic athlete. The Jewish community has been very supportive throughout my journey to the Olympics,” he said.
Dershwitz joins a long list of Jewish fencers who have won the sabre title. Hungarian János Garay, who died at the Mauthausen concentration camp in May 1945, won the third world championship in 1925. Other winners include: Hungarian Sándor Gombos (1926 and 1927), Hungarian Endre Kabos (1934 and 1935), who also died during the Holocaust, Russian Yakov Rylsky (1958, 1961 and 1963) and Russian Mark Rakita (1967).