Five British fencers took part in the European Zonal qualification event in Madrid at the weekend.
This was the final opportunity for fencers from Europe to qualify for the Tokyo Olympic Games with only the winners booking their place.
Susan Sica was first up for the British team in the women’s epee event. Olena Kryvytska from Ukraine and Germany’s Alexandre Ndolo were exempt from the poules in a total field of twenty-two. A near-perfect start from Sica saw her drop just one fight in the first round, meaning a ranking of four for the elimination stages.
A bye through the round of 32 was followed by a tight 15-14 victory over Lis Rottler-Fautsch of Luxembourg and a slightly more comfortable 15-11 win against Croatia’s Paula Jukic. That put her into the semi-finals against Kryvytska, with a World Ranking of 10 one of the favourites for the event. The experienced 34 year old Ukrainian controlled the fight from the beginning and ran out a 15-5 winner.
Kryvytska went on to beat Ndolo in the final 15-12 to book her place at the Games.
Will Deary was the British entry for the next event, Men’s Sabre, and was exempt from the poules along with Romania’s Iulian Teodosiu and Andrey Yagodka of Ukraine, in a field of seventeen.
Ranked second for the table of 16, Will began with a bye and then a confident 15-9 win against Arne De Ridder from Belgium. That put him into the semi-finals in a match against Yagodka. The Ukrainian got the better of the start of the match to lead 8-4 at the break. Yagodka scored the first four hits in the second period and despite a rally from Deary, he went out 15-9.
Teodosiu beat Yagodka 15-11 in the final to secure his qualification for Tokyo 2020.
Britain’s focus began on Philip Marsh on the second day in Madrid. A field of twenty-six saw Poland’s Radoslaw Zawrotniak and Yuval Feirlich of Israel benefit from byes through the poules.
Two victories from five fights saw Marsh progress to the elimination stage with a ranking of eighteen. That meant a very tough fight against Finland’s Niko Vuorinen which he lost 15-7.
The Czech Republic’s Jakub Jurka secured his place at the Games with a 15-8 victory over Jonathan Svensson from Sweden.
Nineteen fencers took part in this event including Yasmin Campbell from Great Britain. Israel’s Nicole Pustilnik had a bye through the poules whilst Campbell went through them with three victories.
Ranked ninth, Campbell put in a confident performance to beat Laeticia Jorgensen of Denmark to make the quarterfinals. There, she faced top seen Pustilnik and was beaten 15-11. Despite doing a lot of the creative work, Campbell couldn’t find Pustilnik’s target and was 4-1 down at the first break and 9-5 down at the second. Campbell fought back brilliantly in the third period to draw level at 11-11 before Pustilnik called for a medical time-out. Having had treatment on her back leg, the Israeli returned to the piste and picked the right moment for her attack to take the fight 15-11.
It was Polish second seed Martyna Jelinska taking the qualification spot with a 12-9 win against Maria Marino of Spain in the final.
Caitlin Maxwell lined up for Great Britain in this event amongst a field of fourteen. A solid four victories in the first round meant a ranking of five for the elimination stages.
A bye through to the quarterfinals meant her first opponent was Yoana Ilieva, a tricky opponent from Bulgaria. Showing greater variety off the line Maxwell went 7-6 up in the first period before getting caught by two distance traps. Trailing 8-7 at the start of the second, Maxwell traded hits with Ilieva to 10-9 before the Bulgarian pulled away to win 15-10.
Azerbaijani, Anna Bashta booked the last European Olympic place by beating Germany’s Anna Limbach 15-13 in the final.
Olympic Team Manager Johnny Davis said, “Given the ongoing impact of COVID 19 these Zonal Championships were a major challenge for everyone involved – organisers, athletes, coaches, support staff referees and volunteers.
“The requirements around entry into and exit from Spain and the testing procedures and COVID 19 protocols brought another level of complexity to the competition and I am hugely impressed by how our athletes and staff maintained their focus on the task at hand.
“Whilst ultimately we are all disappointed that none of our athletes secured qualification for Tokyo the results achieved – two 3rd places and two 6th places – indicate that we have a group of young athletes who have the potential to compete at this level. The challenge for us all now is to significantly raise our standards in line with our ambitions and expectations and those of our partners and to use this as a platform from which to move forward on the road to Paris 2024.”
You can watch interviews with all the athletes above and find out more about their inspiring stories on BF TV. Thanks to UK Sport’s Aspiration Fund and The National Lottery for supporting our athletes throughout this journey.
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