10th October 2011
Today, 9th October 2011, saw the start of the qualifying rounds of the 2011 World Fencing Championships in Catania following a spectacular Opening Ceremony in the city centre last night.
The day started with the men’s sabre event with 136 entries fencing in 18 poules. As with all events the World’s top 16 automatically qualify for the top 64. British interest rested on James Honeybone and Alex O’Connell who both won two of the five fights and ended up ranked 87th and 91st respectively. O’Connell walked over Turlybekov (KAZ) 15-3 in his first preliminary direct elimination but then fell 15-10 to Romanovitch (BLR) ending up 90th. His opponent seemed to be getting the luck in the 50/50 decisions and O’Connell’s frustrations go the better of him, even receiving a yellow card for arguing with the referee when in fact the referee was about to award him the hit. Honeybone was much more calm getting a bye through the first preliminary he then took little time over beating World number 35, Koniusz (POL). He led 8-3 at the break and maintained his lead to win 15-11. He now has a second shot at World number 1, Yakimenko (RUS) having lost to him in the round of 32 at the recent European Championships. Afterwards Honeybone said, “I think I worried him (last time) and that gives me a lot of confidence.”
Women’s foil qualifying followed where Britain started with a full compliment of Anna Bentley, Martina Emanuel, Natalia Sheppard and Sophie Troiano. 106 competitors split into 13 poules fought off in the qualifying halls – Bentley winning three out of six, Emanuel four out of six, Sheppard four out of five and Troiano two out of six. All four made the cut with Sheppard getting a bye through to the top 64. Emanuel and Troiano left it to the priority minute but both made it through the latter on time. Bentley narrowly lost 15-13 to Nogueira (POR) having made the top 16 at the European Championships in July. Whilst slight downhearted she said, “For me it has always been about the team so I need to make sure I go away and learn from this in time and do better for the team.”
The largest event of the tournament began with 214 fencers fighting it over no less than 30 poules. Jon Willis was the lone British entry but had the full support of his team mates. He didn’t let them down winning four of six first round fights earning him a by through the first of up to four preliminary elimination fights just to make the top 64. He then endured a fight where the lead changed hands several times but he eventually came through 15-14 over Colling (LUX). This was also one of the first fights ever streamed live through the FIE’s new coverage through their YouTube channel. Willis then fell in another very tight fight 7-8 to Pop (ROM) end Britain’s interest in the Men’s Epee tournament.
A long and busy day was capped by the performances of Honeybone and Sheppard. The remainder of the individual qualifiers will take place on 10th October, 2011.