The U.S. Men’s Epee Fencing team made history as the first American Team ever to win the Gold Medal at the 2012 World Fencing Championships in Kiev, Ukraine, on April 14, 2012.
U.S. team members Ben Bratton (New York City, N.Y.); Seth Kelsey (Colorado Springs, Colo.), Soren Thompson (New York City, N.Y.), and Cody Mattern (Colorado Springs, Colo.) defeated the six-time reigning World Champions from France in a hotly contested battle by a commanding score of 44 to 37. To reach the final round of competition, the Americans competed against and defeated the best fencers from five continents.
The World Championship in Fencing is an annual competition organized by the International Fencing Federation. It is considered the most prominent international competition in the sport other than the Olympics.
U.S. Team member Ben Bratton became the first African-American and the youngest American ever to win a team gold medal at a World Fencing Championship. Bratton is a three-time fencing all-American and a member of the United States fencing team.
The 26-year-old Bratton who was born and raised in Queens, New York, began fencing at age 11. He joined the Peter Westbrook Foundation, which teaches fencing as a vehicle to develop life skills in inner-city youth. Bratton credits much of his success to Peter Westbrook, a six time fencing Olympian and founder of the Foundation.
Still an active member of the program, Bratton now volunteers to coach other inner city youth, and create a new generation of competitive fencers. “Peter’s support through the wins and the loses gave me the confidence to allow my hard work and discipline to pay off. It also becomes the wellspring for giving back. When someone as accomplished as Peter gives you so much support, you can’t help but feel the need to emulate them.”
Bratton was awarded a full scholarship to St. John’s University where he received his Bachelor’s degree in 2007 after he led the St. John’s Fencing Team to two silver medal finishes at the NCAA fencing championships. After graduation, Bratton would go on to earn positions on the U.S. National team and distinguish himself as one of the best fencers in the world. As a national team member, Bratton would compete in five World Championship events between 2006 and 2012. He would bring home the silver medal from the 2010 World Championships in Paris with his U.S. teammates, another historic first for the U.S. men’s epee team.
“There aren’t enough words to describe how proud we all are of Ben and his historic achievements,” said Peter Westbrook, founder of the Peter Westbrook Foundation. “Ben has won a first ever for the United States and one of the most coveted distinctions in our sport in becoming a world champion. I know that he will use this achievement to springboard into future success.”
Today, Bratton continues his training and hopes to compete in the Olympics in 2016, when epee team fencing will be a competitive entry. The removal of the event remains an unfortunate happenstance for the unbeatable U.S. Men’s Epee fencing team this year that would have likely entered the competition as medal contenders, but Bratton remains optimistic.
“It definitely meant a lot for me to end the season on such a high note,” he said. “All I can do is just keep working and focused on the process. I know that I am just a few steps away from becoming the athlete I envisioned when I started this journey.”