Natalia Sheppard Secures Olympic Qualification at European Zonal
Sheppard qualifies for London 2012 meaning that up to ten British Fencers will compete on home soil
Natalia Sheppard qualified for London 2012 by reaching the top two at the European Olympic Zonal qualifying event in Bratislava, Slovakia today. She started the day in a field of 15 fencers in an event designed to fill the two remaining European spots for the Olympic individual women’s foil competition.
She won all but one of her six first round matches earning a bye through the round of 16 as 3rd seed. In the round of 8 she comfortably beat home favourite, Cellerova (SVK), 15-4. This left her facing world number 230, Ghita (ROU), for one of the Olympic spots. The fight did not start well as Sheppard fell 4-2 down at the first break and then 5-2 down early in the second period. Digging deep she pulled it back to 5-5 by the second break. Going into the third period it could not have been tighter and both fencers elected to use non-combativity to take the fight into the final minute. The two fencers traded hits to take it to 6-6 but with 19secs on the clock Sheppard scored the crucial 13th hit. Trailing by one hit, Ghita had to take the fight to the Brit and this played into Sheppard’s hands. She closed the fight out 10-6 on time guaranteeing her place at London 2012.
Speaking about qualifying, Sheppard said; “I couldn’t have done this without my coach, Maciej and all the performance support team which was put in place after the appointment of Alex Newton. Since the women’s foil squad have been part of the World Class Programme we have gone from strength to strength. l can’t wait for London to show the rest of the world just how far we have come.” Her jubilant coach, Maciej Wojtkowiak, said; “I have always believed that the women’s foil squad had great potential. Every single person in the support team has contributed to the great achievement reached by Natalia today. I am looking forward with great optimism for the future.” British Fencing’s Performance Manager, Alex Newton, added; “I have been criticised in many quarters for backing the women’s foil squad but with Maciej at the helm I always knew they would fulfill their potential. I am delighted for Maciej and Natalia for embracing the changes to the World Class Programme – today it paid off. I look forward to working with them both to London and beyond.”
It was not such good news elsewhere. Top two finishes in the women’s épée and men’s sabre events and top four finishes in the men’s épée and women’s sabre events would secure qualification for the Games. Lawrence lost 15-11 to Szasz (HUN) in the round of 4 of the women’s épée, Honeybone lost 15-6 to Marti (ESP) in the round of 8 in the men’s sabre, Willis lost 15-10 to Karuchenko (UKR) in the round of 16 in the men’s épée and Hutchison lost 15-13 yo Tschomakova (BUL) in the round of 8 in the women’s sabre.
The following qualified for the London 2012 Olympic Games via the Zonal event:
Men’s Epee: Piasecki (NOR), Karuchenko (UKR), Sukhov (RUS), Zawrotniak (POL)
Women’s Epee: Flessel-Colovic (FRA), Szasz (HUN)
Men’s Foil: Daraban (ROU), Jovanovic (CRO)
Women’s Foil: Leleyko (UKR), Sheppard (GBR)
Men’s Sabre: Boyko (UKR), Skrodski (POL)
Women’s Sabre: Bujdoso (GER), Mikina (AZE), Pascu (ROU), Tschomakova (BUL)
To see the BBC report on the event, click here.
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