Italian Fencing reaches two hundred European medal milestone
The final two days of the competition in Strasbourg saw team events in Men’s and Women’s Foil and Sabre.
Men’s Foil Team
Great Britain (James Davis, Richard Kruse, Marcus Mepstead and Alex Tofalides in reserve) was one of fourteen teams in this event on the penultimate day of the Championships. An edgy 44-39 victory over Belarus saw them face Russia in the quarterfinal – a repeat of the bronze medal match at last year’s European Championships that ended in a British victory. A slow start meant that Russia led 20-11 after four matches. In the following two matches the GB team outscored the Russians 16-6 meaning that they went into the last three legs with a slender 27-26 lead. Two good bouts from Russia meant that James Davis went into the last leg 40-33 down and despite a heroic performance, Great Britain lost 45-42. In the placings matches GB beat the Czech Republic 45-44 but then lost 42-40 to Germany to finish sixth. It was very clear that the British contingent were unhappy about some of the referee’s calls throughout the match but especially in the anchor leg.
Seeking revenge after last year’s surprise defeat by Poland at the quarterfinal stage in Zagreb, Italy led the first semi-final from start to finish and made the gold medal match with a 45-39 victory. The French team also led their semi-final match from the start and went on to beat Russia 45-35. Russia dominated the bronze medal match resulting in Radoslaw Glonek being replaced by Leszek Rajski in the seventh leg. It was not enough to stop the Russian winning the bronze medal with a 45-28 victory. The gold medal match was a match up between the World’s top two teams and it was the French who made the better start, leading 15-8 after three fights. France had pulled further ahead after six fights, 30-19 which resulted in Andrea Cassara being substituted off for Valerio Aspromonte. Despite 22-15 run for Italy in the last three fights, it was not enough as Erwan Le Pechoux anchored the French team to a memorable victory on home soil.
Women’s Sabre Team
Great Britain did not enter this event as nine teams competed for the title. In the first semi-final Russia overcame Hungary 45-41 despite a 12-5 fight back from Anna Marton in the last leg. France dominated Ukraine in the other semi-final with a 45-30 victory.
In the bronze medal match Ukraine led Hungary 15-14 after three fights and then maintained the lead through. They took the medal 45-39. The gold medal match was one where the lead changed hands four time times. Russia led 15-13 after three legs but France were 30-29 up at the end of the sixth. The final three legs lived up to the expectations for a European Championship gold medal match. First Saoussen Boudiaf took France further into the lead with a 5-1 leg which was followed by a stunning Yana Egorian comeback (10-2) for Russia. The Russians led 40-37 going into the last leg as Ekaterina Dyachenko came on for Sofya Velikaya to anchor her team to the gold medal 45-43.
Women’s Team Foil
The last day of the tournament began with the women’s team foil event. Great Britain did not enter as only eight teams competed for this title. Italy cruised through the competition and easily beat Poland, 45-23 to make the gold medal match. Russia also made light work of getting into the final and overcame a spirited French team 45-26 in their semi-final. In the bronze medal match France secured an early lead over Poland and went into the fourth leg 20-8 up. They never looked in any danger of loosing the match and ran out 45-38 winners.
The gold medal match was one of the best women’s foil team matches of all time. A cautious start from both teams saw France lead 13-10 after three fights. It was even closer after six fights but the French still led 24-23. The drama all came in the last three matches as first, Martini Batini went on a 7-4 run to put Italy into the lead (30-28) for the first time in the match. Then, on came Larissa Korobeynikova for Russia who fenced Italy’s replacement for Valentina Vezzali, Arianna Errigo – the world number one! The two fencers went at each other but it was the Russian who prevailed, giving her teammate, Inna Deriglazova, a 40-38 lead. Elisa Di Francisca came on for the Italians and she quickly fell 44-39 behind. The Italian then produced a flawless display of foil fencing to take the Italians to the gold medal with a 45-44 victory.
Men’s Team Sabre
Great Britain (Soji Aiyenuro, Alex Crutchett, James Honeybone and Curtis Miller in reserve) joined eleven other teams in the final event of the Championships. They drew France in the round of 16 and a slow start saw them trailing 15-8 after three fights. A brave comeback was required and the British team nearly did just that but eventually lost 45-41. Particularly impressive was the form of Soji Aiyenuro, who outscored Bolade Apithy 13-3 in the seventh leg. The British team lost 45-43 to Spain before beating Poland 45-38 to finish eleventh.
Russia won the first semi-final beating Belarus 45-40 but the other semi-final between France and Germany was a much tighter affair. The Germans led 15-8 after three legs and then 30-27 after six. Diego Occhiuzzi came on for Italy in the penultimate leg and put his team in the lead for the first time in the match. The German’s brought on their young substitute, Ricard Huebers for the last leg and he very nearly did it for the Germans but Luigi Samele just got over the line, 45-44. Determined not to go home empty handed, the Germans led the bronze medal match over Belarus from start to finish, taking the medal 45-35.
In the gold medal match, it was the Russians who started better, leading 15-13 after three bouts. Solid performances from all three Italians saw them go 30-27 up after six fights. As with the women’s team foil match, the end was full of drama. Enrico Berre pushed the Italians further ahead (35-30) in the seventh but then the Russians stage a comeback with Alexey Yakimenko outscoring Diego Occhiuzzi 7-5. Veniamen Reshetnikov came on for Russia 40-37 but with the momentum very much in his favour. Luigi Samele looked out of it as the Russian went 44-43 ahead but somehow managed to refocus and take Italy to the title, 45-44.