16/06/2022- GBR Fencer
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U23 EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIPS – FINE MARGINS

Between 25th May and 31st May 2022, 17 GBR athletes across 5 weapons took part in the U23 Europeans Championships in Tallinn, Estonia. Here, BF Pathways Director Steve Kemp shares his personal summary report and observations of the event.

Unfortunately, the timing of the competition clashed with the exam season, which meant that GBR Women’s Foil was not represented at the event, and it also impacted other weapons.

This event brought together 341 athletes representing 29 European countries. The Championships was a great competition for the GBR fencers to test themselves against the up-and-coming European fencers and some that had competed in the Tokyo Olympics. It is a competition which allows the coaches to assess the readiness of Cadets and Juniors to compete at Senior World Cups in the following season.

The predicted expectation of the fencer’s performance ranges were framed before the competition. The competition was quickly described as ‘the fine margins‘, where each point impacted progress for most fencers, often with a one or two points’ difference! Overall, 80% of the fencers performed to predicted/expected levels.

Results and Analysis:

Key:

Colour Percentage finish
Gold Top 8% finish
Yellow Between 16% and 8%
Green Between 40% and 16%
Light blue Between 70% and 40%
Light red Below 70%
Dark Red Lost all poule fights

 

U23 European Championships results
 

Memorable Moments:

This is not an exhaustive list, but contains Steve’s personal reflections, recorded fresh from the event.

Luke Haynes (U23) Luke was delayed at the Senior Men’s Sabre Competition and made a massive effort to fly directly to Tallinn for the competition, an act that meant the squad of three was complete and they could take part in the team event.

Zachary Hamilton (U23) A tough poule saw Zach, in impressive style beat the Antonia Heathcock (GER) older brother of Colin Heathcock.

 Hannah Lebor (Cadet) Her laser focus to get on with the bout, despite the attempt of her opponent’s protestation to break the moment. Mask back down, body language saying, “Come on, let’s get on with it!” –  Super cool to watch.

Julia Caron (Junior) Some fights, your opponent is just better at that time. After the loss, within an hour, Julia was back on the training piste to work on a specific element of her game, that had come up short.

Rachel Barnes A tough poule meant to qualify, in her last bout, she had to win and win well. 5-0, but not enough missing, being the next on the list for advancement. Fine Margins!

Dominic De Almeida  (U23) Team event – Took a flick to the head, cut like a boxer, bleeding profusely. Sat down, quick repair work and back in the fight!

Joe Donaghue (Junior) – Fought German Olympian Klein in the L32, no fear, with his usual energy taking an early lead and maintaining it to the second break, when the opponent finally got the measure of the young foilist – it was a great bout to watch.

Jaimie Cook (Cadet) The energy he brings to the bout is astounding. The artistry in his movement is a pleasure to watch and this competition starts to indicate his readiness for this level of opponent. This movement allowing him to make quality hits was evident in his L32 match.

Billy Shepherd (U23) In the last poules fight Billy fenced Hasanov, the former World Junior Bronze medallist from 2019. It was apparent that Billy was “in the zone” fencing freely, manipulating his distance to work inside Hasanov’s reach and range. An almost text book fight, with Billy seeing the moment with absolute clarity to score hits was a great way to end his poules.

 

Men’s Epee Team vs Switzerland After below expectation individual performances, there were super tight bouts in the poules – an example being Ben losing out twice on priority minute is just another of the fine margins in this event. The disappointment of the individual often means renewed determination in the team events. The team performance against a rated Swiss Team was evidence of the potential, and garnered the greatest praise from the opposition coach within this team event. In each bout, each fencer outsmarted their opponent, all under the watchful gaze and guidance of the Team Coach Oana Puiu.

 

Women’s Epee Team vs Poland Like the men’s epee team, the women’s team had never worked together before as a complete unit. The team discussed with John Rees the roles they felt they wanted to take on. The level of expectation from the athletes themselves has grown over this season, losing to Israel by the narrowest of margins (score was within 1, with a few seconds to go), to then beating Hungary and Poland whose teams consisted of athletes who regularly attend senior world cups and multiple medallists at Junior World cup level. Watching them grow as a team, building the bonds of trust within each other, saying “I’ve got this”, is alway a privilege as a Coach or Team Manager to witness.

 

Men’s Sabre Team vs Hungary A Team of 3 no reserves, no one to pick it up, if there was a problem. A nip and tuck first few bouts, where in the past the Hungarians would look to establish a lead and  start to take the fight away, this didn’t happen and the Hungarian reserve was brought in, the impact of a 6-2 to the Hungarian, didn’t deter the fencers and the next 3 legs, each GBR fencer took it, leg 8 proved to be decisive with the strong reserve Hungarian re-establishing parity for the 9 leg, which went the way of the Hungarian team. The message from the fencers, “Whilst we will respect you, we will not fear you.”

 

Men’s Foil Special report: Table tennis! “Keep the ball alive”, using their mobile phones as bats, as they moved around the table. Louis has great skills!

 

My reflections and learning

A great group of young athletes with potential to be realised, who gave respect, but feared no one.

Young People. Be it table tennis, card games, on piste, they enjoyed each other’s company and they were in it together, supporting other weapon groups, where applicable and appropriate.

(This observation is from Ian Lichfield) When fencers were in winning positions or level but holding priority, the ability to think clearly under pressure would lead to a lack of execution to close the fight out. Areas we can work on within the ADP.

A group that in the main were prepared to have honest conversations, and not look for excuses when the day didn’t go as planned.

The need to up our game physically to deal with quality opponents in the Direct Elimination is a simple improvement that requires no talent to do, just effort with the correct programme.

Fencers’ routines are an area where gains can be made, these include: arrival after travel, using available resources to maximum benefit in pre and post-competition using the 3 Rs = Refuel, Rehydrate and Rehabilitation.

And lastly, not to attend this competition is a lost opportunity for fencers to attend a competition where every bout is a tough bout and a great grounding for young athletes to see how they cope up a level.

 

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