Stunning performance as Londoner takes European crown
James Davis, the 22 year old Londoner, fenced his way to Great Britain’s first ever* European Championships fencing title yesterday in Strasbourg, France.
A solid performance in the first round meant that he was ranked seventh for the elimination fights (up to 15 hits). A bye through the round of 64 was followed by solid victories over Jiri Kurfurst (CZE) 15-10 and Timur Safin (RUS) 15-11. He faced Alexander Choupenitch (CZE) in the quarterfinals and with one World ranking point between them, a mouth-watering duel was on the cards. Neither fencer disappointed as the two traded hits in a display of superb footwork and lightening fast hand actions. Davis prevailed 15-13.
In his semi-final he faced the 2013 European Champion, Peter Joppich (GER) who is never an easy opponent. They traded hits in the early stage of the fight with the German edging the distance battle but two beautifully timed counter-actions meant that Davis led 6-4 going into the first break. The second period was one-way traffic for Davis as he went on a mesmeric run hitting the World number 10 almost at will and winning 15-8 with a series of brilliant attacks. In the other semi-final, the World number 6, Alexey Cheremisinov (RUS) beat Erwan Le Pechoux (FRA) 15-9.
The gold medal match did not start well as Cheremisinov picked Davis off to lead 2-0 as he rushed his attacks. The British fencer settled quickly and the flamboyant jumping attack that took him into a 3-2 lead was a sign of his growing confidence. However the two fencers went into the first break tied at 5-5 and it was the Russian who came out on the attack in the second period. His much more direct approach saw him lead Davis 10-6 in no time at all but a technical fault** meant that Davis was forced to change his jacket and the break proved the defining moment of the match. When Davis returned to the piste, two counter actions followed by two attacks saw him draw level. Much like his semi-final, the British fencer’s confidence grew and he stormed to a 14-11 lead. An emphatic parry-riposte (defence action using the blade) was a fitting way for Davis to earn the European Men’s Foil crown.
Speaking after the event, Davis said; “It’s amazing! Not really sunk in just yet. I have spent most of the night awake with total elation on my face and lots of cramp.
“I owe a massive thank you to everyone who has made this possible. My parents; they have worked so hard and supported me all the way. My coach Ziemek for his continued dedication towards me and to all the coaches that have worked with me over the years to get to this point. I am currently training in America at the Massialas Foundation and have noticed the benefits already.
“Lastly, a thank you to Middlesex University who have supported me during my time there and to my sponsors UK Sport and Beazley for their continued support.”
Alex Newton, British Fencing’s Performance Director, added; “I am absolutely thrilled for James. To become the first British European Champion is just reward for all the hard work and dedication that he puts in to his fencing. It’s great that James has made a little bit of history here in Strasbourg, which no one can ever take away. The whole performance team is looking forward to supporting James on the next stage of his fencing journey.”
Last year was a break-through season for Davis, as he climbed to seventh in the World rankings. This season has been about consolidating his position in the top sixteen in the World – something which is important to top international fencers because it means that they avoid the early rounds of major ranking tournaments.
* – In 1933, Gwendoline Neligan won the European Fencing Championships but the result was later reclassified as a World Championship title
* – The temperature rose to 37 degrees Celsius in Strasbourg on 9th June 2014. This resulted in higher levels of perspiration. In Davis’s case this meant that his non-target area (the white jacket) started to register valid hits. He immediately changed his jacket.
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