The Beazley British Championships 2013 took place at the EIS Sheffield over the weekend of 7-8 December 2013. With over 350 fencers competing in the individual event it was a truly competitive affair.
The largest event of the weekend saw ninety-one competitors take part with Paul Sanchez-Lethem (Brixton Fencing Club) and David Gregory (Cheshire Fencing Club) coming through the first round ranked number one and number two seeds respectively. Their ranking was a true reflection of their form on the day as they faced each other for the National title.
The final started tentatively as both fencers felt their way into the match with a double starting proceedings. A beautiful high-low attack to foot from Sanchez-Lethem was matched by an equally well-timed low-high attack from Gregory bringing the score to 2-2. It looked as if both fencers had settled for that score line going into the first break but they Sanchez-Lethem launched a surprise fleche attack. Gregory was sharp though and managed to get a double. The tactics of both fencers became more apparent in the second period with Sanchez-Lethem looking to launch surprise attacks whilst Gregory was looking to work off his opponent’s attacks with either stop-hits or blocking counter attacks. Gregory came out on top at the end of the second period, leading 7-5. It was much the same at the start of the second period with Gregory stretching his lead to 12-9. With time ticking away Sanchez-Lethem increased the pace of the fight pushing Gregory to his back line. It became apparent that all was not well in the Gregory camp as an innocuous hit to the thumb in his semi-final match was starting to take its toll. Gregory was literally clinging on to his weapon and trying to stay away from his opponent. A fleche attack saw Sanchez-Lethem close the gap to 12-10. He then managed to push Gregory over his back line to take it to 12-11. Looking to steady the ship, Gregory launched his first attack of the match successfully but Sanchez-Lethem continued his own attacking game to take the score to 13-12. With just 25 seconds remaining the two fencers went toe-to-toe in the middle of the piste and after a messy exchange, Sanchez-Lethem leveled at 13-13. This intriguing tactical battle went into a priority minute with Gregory taking the priority. This meant that he could stick to his original game plan and play off his opponent’s attack. That he did, taking the National title 14-13 is a compelling gold medal match. The bronze medals went to Christopher Greensides (RAF Fencing Union) and Nicholas Perry (Haverstock Fencing Club).
Despite dropping a fight each in the first round Corinna Lawrence (Unattached) and Georgina Usher (Lansdowne Fencing Club) fought their way through a field of sixty-four to make the gold medal match in this event.
Lawrence started the better of the two employing skillful footwork on the attack and in defence to go 2-0 up. Usher’s experience played a big part in the pace of the fight though and she closed the gap to 4-3. A furious exchange followed ending with both ladies attacking each other to the low line but in turn blocking each other out. Lawrence reacted more sharply than Usher to go 5-3 up and then closed the first period with a well-timed fleche taking the score to 6-3. The second period started with two doubles but then Lawrence switched back to using her feet to avoid her opponent’s attack before striking herself. At 10-6 up, Lawrence looked to have done enough to close this fight out but Usher had other ideas. She slowed the fight down and her patience paid off as she went into the break only two hits down at 11-9. In the third period Lawrence stuck to her plan of working off her opponent’s attack but the two traded hits taking the score to 13-11. Again Usher’s experience shone through as she leveled the match at 13-13 with one attacking and one defensive move. Now this enthralling fight came down to which fencer was brave enough to take the match to their opponent. A short attack from Lawrence drew Usher’s attack, which was blocked and a single light came up for Lawrence – second-intention fencing at its best. With time running out Usher was forced to go on the attack playing into to Lawrence’s hands who took the National title 15-13. The bronze medals went to Jayne Crook (Wingerworth Fencing Club) and Amy Radford (Malvern Hills Sword Fencing Club).
A field of sixty-six fencers competed for the Men’s Foil National title but both finalists emerged from the same first round poule. Marcus Mepstead and Alex Tofalides were unlucky to draw each other so early on but Mepstead won their first round encounter giving him fifth seed for the direct elimination stages whilst Tofalides was ranked fourteenth. Both fencers made light work of making the semi-finals where Mepstead beat Kruse 15-10 and Tofalides defeated Peggs 15-11.
With the two fencers training together in the World Class Programme set up, it was no surprise that the first period was a cagey affair. What was a surprise was that the usually aggressive Tofalides decided to adopt a defensive tactic. With both fencers doing just enough to avoid a call of non-combativity the full period was fenced but with the score deadlocked at 0-0. The second period came to a close after a call of non-combativity and despite and early foray from Mepstead the third period also ended in a non-combativity call with neither fencer off the mark in terms of score. Clearly both fencers were happy to fence off for the National title in a final minute of fencing. Whilst priority was awarded to Mepstead this wasn’t an ordinary priority minute. When non-combativity is called in the final period of a fight, a full minute of fencing follows regardless of who scores first. Priority only comes into play if the scores are level at the end of that minute. Sticking to his defensive tactic, Tofalides retreated to his back line, where he had spent much of the fight. Scoring first was crucial and his tactics paid off as he was able to defend an attack from Mepstead and hit with a riposte. With a matter of only seconds on the clock, Mepstead was forced to attack but each time he did Tofalides was able to hit with closing counter-attacks. At 4-0 down Mepstead managed to score a consolation hit but Tofalides took the crown 4-1.
Georgia Hannay (Britsol Fencing Club) and Domonique Szokolovics (Sussex House Fencing Club) emerged from a field of thirty-eight to fight off for the title of women’s foil National Champion 2013. An exceptionally slow start saw her drop three fights in the first round leaving her ranked a lowly twenty-fourth for the knock-out stages of the tournament. Szokolovics didn’t have the perfect start but only dropped one fight meaning that she was ranked tenth for the direct elimination. Both ladies found their form after the first round though and made the quarterfinal stages fairly easily. There, Hannay faced the in-form and number one ranked, Catherine Cook (Shetland Fencing Club). A close encounter followed but Hannay squeezed through 15-14. At the same stage of the event Szokolovics faced the number two seed, Natalia Sheppard (Unattached). The fight went to time with Szokolovics making the semis 10-9. There Hannay defeated King (Sussex House Fencing Club) 15-11 and Szokolovics took out Sibert (Edinburgh Fencing Club) 15-7.
Szokolovics made the better of a cautious first period leading 4-2 going into the break. Both fencers kept a very long distance from each other with Hannay looking to capitalise on the counter. Szokolovics took her time to open the two-hit lead up. In the second period it was much the same as both fencers kept a very long distance from each other. This period went to Hannay though, whose counter-attacking paid off as she took a 5-4 lead into the second break. Szokolovics played a patient game in the third period and retook the lead with some well-timed attacks. With less than a minute left in the fight Hannay was forced to attack. However Szokolovics, using the long distance that was the hallmark of the fight, was able to pick her opponent off and led 9-5. With Hannay having to rush, Szokolovics took the National title 15-5.
Seventy-one fencers took part in this event with Alexander Crutchett (Brentwood School Fencing Club) and James Honeybone (Truro Fencing Club) making it through to the final match, both winning all of their first round matches. Neither fencer struggled to make this stage of the event but the gold medal match was a tight encounter.
In a repeat of the 2011 final, Honeybone started the last fight of the Championships well, going 3-0 up but his control of the fight was tempered by Crutchett’s insistence on being the aggressor and before long the scores were level at 5-a-piece. During this comeback, Honeybone was hurt and clearly flustered on a number of occasions. However three sharp attacks from him in reply to only one attack from Crutchett saw them going into the break with the Truro fencer leading 8-6. At the start of the second period, an assured and mature display from Crutchett brought the scores level at 8-8 only for Honeybone to steal the lead back with a stunningly well-timed attack. A beautifully executed parry riposte from Crutchett, based on a supreme command of distance saw him level things up again. After a number of simultaneous attacks Crutchett took the lead for the first time in the fight and at 13-11 to Crutchett the momentum had swung. Honeybone was on the back foot and the fight looked to be over. With Crutchett going 14-12 up it looked like he was going to add the 2013 title to the one he won in 2011. It was not to be as Honeybone dug deep and drew level with two well-executed attacks. It was no surprise that a series of simultaneous attacks followed but it was Honeybone that held his nerve to take the title 15-14.
A field of 38 fencers competed in this event and despite dropping a fight each in the first round, Jessica Davies (Bath Sword) and Sophie Williams (Truro Fencing Club) fought their way through to the title fight. Both fencers had one tricky fight on the way to the final; Williams just edged Joanna Hutchison (Camden Fencing Club) 15-14 in the quarterfinals and Davies came through Harriet Dixon (Millfield School Fencing Club) by the same score in the semi-finals.
In the final Davies started the stronger quickly going into a 3-1 lead with a variety of moves. All of a sudden, Williams raced up through the gears scoring the next four hits unanswered. She maintained this pressure taking an 8-5 lead into the break. A more cautious approach from Davies at the start of the second period played into her favour for a short time but then Williams sprung back to life to take an 11-7 lead. Despite a late rally from Davies, Williams was not to be outdone and took the National title 15-10. The bronze medals went to Dixon and Robinson (Camden Fencing Club).
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