Carolina Stutchbury won silver in the Cadet (U17) Women’s Foil event on day five of the World Championships in Dubai, having already secured individual gold and team bronze in the European Junior Women’s Foil competitions in Novi Sad, as well as a bronze medal from yesterday’s Junior individual.
Straight from the endurance of the previous day’s medal-winning performance, Stutchbury’s first round was both confident and astonishing. She lay down a tally of six clear victories, conceding only one single point. Nonetheless, she was seeded second for the direct elimination rounds, which saw her claim her bye in the tableau of 128 and get straight down to a clean despatch of her first opponent, Atakeya (KAZ) who she beat 15-1 in the 64.
A series of similarly resounding victories for Stutchbury followed as she triumphed 15-4 over Naskari (GRE) in the 32. Directly from the call room in the 16, Stutchbury won 15-3 against Usmonova (UZB) who had placed 5th at the Cadet European Championships in Novi Sad last month. Stutchbury’s quarterfinals match saw her face 13 year-old Kuritsky (ISR) who had defeated GBR teammate Amelie Tsang in the previous round.
Throughout the knockout stages, Stutchbury deployed a mature set of tactics, using defence in her own half of the piste to build a lead, maintaining through the middle to grind her opponent down and then applying the gas to close out the fight. She displayed hypnotic certainty in building her own rhythms throughout each three-minute period, knowing when to exert pressure whilst equally being sure of when to soak up the clock.
Still, for the semi-finals, Stutchbury saw herself pitched against the unknown Nagase (JPN) who had taken the tableau by stealth. Her approach was to press the Japanese fencer from the get-go, controlling the pace of the fight and the distance to go 3-0 up. Nagase’s response was to work off the blade to level the score.
At the first break, scores were even at 5-5. Returning to the second period and one counter each saw the score line crawl to 6-6. As Nagase was looking for attacks on preparation, Stutchbury switched to finishing her long attack to go 10-7 up. The reactions were highly-charged as Nagase changed again to land a parry riposte.
11-9 up and the question was as to whether the tactics would continue to rotate in the third period. Stutchbury gave an unequivocal response, demonstrating her take on proceedings. She lured Nagase by allowing the distance to close up and then either set about attacking on preparation or counter-attacking, thereby dominating her way to 14-9. The semi concluded in Stutchbury’s favour, as she took the victory on the attack 15-10.
Battling a test like no other, the gold medal match saw Stutchbury facing senior foil world number 16 Jessica Guo (CAN) who had cemented her stellar profile with a top 16 finish at the Tokyo Olympics.
The two 16 year-olds show a liking of using distance as their main weapon to fashion hits, so it was sure to be a closely-fought, tactical battle.
With a patient start, it was Guo who began to press at close distance. Then, by pressing further, Guo propelled herself to take more control of the fight. Her series of clean attacks – both with and without the blade – edged the Canadian ahead 7-3 by the first break.
With a four-point deficit and the knowledge that Guo was going to continue to press, Stutchbury was forced out on the attack in the second period. It played into Guo’s hand who took the title 15-7, but Stutchbury’s dazzling performance was unquestionably worthy of the silver medal and a place – once again – on the podium.
The bronze medals went to Matilde Molinari (ITA) and Rino Nagase (JPN).
Stutchbury rightfully described how she felt on top of the world, saying “It’s great! Honestly, to come from yesterday, being so tired and to fight my way through it and get the silver medal – it’s the greatest.”
Stutchbury will fence in the Junior Women’s Foil team event tomorrow. On that prospect, following a straight two days competing from prelims to podiums, she added, “I don’t have any fencing the day after. So I might as well use all my energy tomorrow and try my best.”
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