Richard Kruse ends the Grand Prix season with Shanghai title win
Today, thirty-four year old Londoner, Richard Kruse, ended the men’s foil (fencing) regular season in Shanghai on a high, by beating Russian, Timur Safin 15-13 in the gold medal match to retain the title he won last year.
The British fencer headed into the competition ranked fourth in the World. This meant that he avoided competing in the qualification rounds and began the event in the round of 64. He started by beating Benjamin Kleibrink of Germany 15-14 – his closest match of the tournament – followed by Chinese fencer, Huang Mengkai, 15-7. His third round opponent was Korea’s reigning Asian Champion, Ha Taegyu, who had beaten Kruse in two of their three previous meetings. The British fencer controlled the distance against the speedy Korean and took the fight comfortably, 15-9. He went on to secure his place in the semi-finals with a 15-13 victory over Francesco Trani of Italy, a fencer he has never lost to.
His semi-final was against a long-standing Italian adversary and World number nine, Andrea Cassara, who he had a 4-2 head-to-head record against. The Italian started well, dominating on the attack whilst negating Kruse’s brilliant counter actions. Kruse then opened the distance and started to produce fake attacks to body before repeatedly scoring on the Italian’s shoulder to level at 9-9. The break gave Cassara time to compose himself and when play resumed he quickly re-established a 14-11 lead. With Cassara on the brink of victory, Kruse calmly set about his comeback. Two superbly timed defensive moves and a surprise attack brought him level at 14-all before a well-timed final action secured the victory.
Standing in the way of the title he won last year was Russia’s World number six, Timur Safin. Kruse had only faced the Russian once before and that was in the bronze medal play-off at the Rio Olympic Games which Safin won. The chance for revenge looked a distant hope as Safin dominated the early stages, opening up an early 6-4 lead. Kruse remained calm and levelled at 6-6 before employing his deadly counter-attack to take the lead. Safin fought back and the two tied at 9-9 at the break. At the start of the second period Safin adapted by preparing his attacks more carefully and re-establish the lead at 13-11.
Experienced Kruse kept his composure and outwitted his opponent with a variety of unexpected defensive actions to win the match 15-13.
Speaking after retaining his Shanghai title, Richard said, “I’m delighted to retain my title in the Shanghai Grand Prix. For the past two weeks I was doing some training at altitude in Kazakhstan so I think that helped boost my red blood cell count. Thanks a lot to my coach Ziemek Wojciechowski for his continued support. Next stop is the Euro Champs in Serbia.”
His coach, Ziemek Wojciechowski added, “These days there is a very large group of potential winners in men’s foil so to win a Grand Prix is particularly hard – but to win it for the second time in a row is almost unbelievable. Richard showed tremendous strength of character today.”
This result means that Richard stays at number 4 in the World rankings and he will next compete at the European Championships in Novi Sad, Serbia in June.
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