Caitlin Maxwell achieved the best senior result of her career in Algiers on Friday making the quarterfinals of the opening Women’s Sabre World Cup of the season. Finishing eighth, she beat World number one, Anna Bashta from Azerbaijan on route to the showcase final.
An enormous field of 152 fencers completed the early stages of the event on Thursday. Ranked 94th in the World, Maxwell made a nervy start winning just two of her six first round matches but squeezed into the preliminary knockout stages with little room to spare. Showing great maturity, she went on to beat Ismoilova (UZB) 15-10 and Fox-Gitomer (USA) 15-13 to make the round of 64.
Maxwell had never broken the top 64 of a senior World Cup or Grand Prix before and faced the World number one, World Championship silver medallist and reigning European Champion, Anna Bashta next. A tight match followed, and with Maxwell leading 12-10, the venue suffered a power-cut, and the match was stopped for 15 minutes. After the unscheduled break, Bashta scored 3 points back-to-back to retake the lead, but Maxwell held her nerve to answer with three consecutive hits of her own and take a fantastic 15-13 victory.
She went on to beat two fencers from the USA, Nazlymov 15-14 with a courageous final touch, landing a clinical long attack to win, and then Chamberlain 15-9 controlling the match from start to finish to make the quarterfinals.
One victory away from her first senior international medal, she faced World number eight, Lucia Martin-Portugues from Spain – a two-time World Cup medallist. The Spanish fencer took an early lead which she held onto, going into the break with an 8-5 lead over Maxwell. After the break, Maxwell came storming back to take the lead 13-12 with lightening quick reprise attacks and smart parry-ripostes. However, Martin-Portugues showed her depth of experience and managed to dig deep and squeeze out the last 3 hits and a 15-13.
Speaking after her warm-down Maxwell said, “My first feeling was disappointment not to have made the podium but of course this is a real breakthrough for me and I’m really pleased with today’s performance. I felt really focussed all day, and the confidence we’ve built through a really effective pre-season allowed me to impose my own game in tight situations. I’m so grateful for all the support of my family, the fencers around me, my coach Jon Salfield, S&C coach Steve Petrie and mental coach Jon Rhodes. Thanks also to British fencing for their continued support.”
Jon Salfield, her coach from her very first lesson as a beginner fencer added, “I have believed this level of result has been coming for some time. With the ability Caitlin has and the outstanding work ethic she has displayed through both good and bad periods of her fencing career so far, it was just a matter of time. Today was an important moment for British sabre. Everyone can see these world class results are possible for us and that we have the expertise, environment and athletes to compete with the very best. I believe that we have much more development to come and will score many more top-class results for British Fencing.”
Maxwell went on to compete in the team event on Sunday with Maria Chart, Kate Daykin and Sophia Potter.
Full results are available here.
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