Monday, 6 December 2010

World Championships 2010 – Report from Chris

I went to the fencing World Championships in Paris as the Dutch foil coach.
In practice this meant that I was coaching 1 fencer, Sebastiaan Borst, who is a good friend and used to be my sparring partner when I was fencing in Holland. We used to go to the World Cups together and used to coach each other there. In the last two years I have been coaching him more and more at tournaments and I think we make a good combination.
The tournament for men's foil started on 4th November in a big sports hall called “Stade the Carpentier”. There were 159 competitors from all over the world.

The way they work with these tournaments is that the first 16 of the tournaments ranking list are immediately qualified for the main tournament (last 64-phase). Usually at the World Championships the first 16 of the tournament ranking list are the same names as the first 16 on the world ranking list, because everybody is present. Unfortunately for Britain Richard Kruse (world ranked number 4 at that moment) could not be there due to an injury.
Because the first 16 are already qualified for the final tournament phase the rest of the fencers have to fight for the remaining 48 places. The procedure is then to draw poules and after that eliminations till you reach that number of 48 remaining fencers. It pays to win all your poule fights, because the best 16 fencers after the poules are also immediately qualified for the last 64-phase. 20 percent of the field is eliminated after the poules. This usually means you have to win at least two fights in a poule of 7 and score a good number of hits in the fights you lost. After the poules they do eliminations till they have another 32 fencers to complete the schedule for the last 64 phase.

It was good to see that besides the traditionally strong countries like Italy, France, Russia, China etc. "new" fencing countries like Colombia, Thailand and Turkey were also present with surprisingly strong fencers.
Sebastiaan won 4 matches in his first pool, which ensured him qualification after the poules and a bye for the first elimination. So he was only 1 fight away from qualifying for the last 64 -phase.
He had to eliminate against a very strong fencer from Venezuela. Antonio Leal is world ranked 33 and the winner of the Pan-American Championships 2010. This is the equivalent of the European Championships for the North, Central and South American zone.
Leal is a very quick attacking fencer with a lot of energy and stamina. We went for a defensive tactic since this is already one of Sebastiaan strong points and it had worked quite well in the poule. The first 3 minutes were equal and ended in a 5-4 lead for Leal. In the second period Sebastiaan fenced really well. Good distance control, footwork, parry-ripostes and attacks on preparation made him win the fight comfortably with 15-8. So he was qualified for the second day.
This phase of the tournament was held 3 days later in the Grand Palais on the Champs Elysees central Paris. A fantastic location! Not a sports hall but a beautiful palace hall with amazing natural daylight coming through the many glass windows. In fact the whole palace is an amazing building made of steel, stone and glass.

Sebastiaan had to fence the number 14 of the world and the current number 3 of the last European Championships, the Russian Renal Ganeev.
Again we went for a defensive tactic, because Sebastiaan fenced a lot better defensively than offensively. It was a nerve racking slow scoring match, since Ganeev also went for a defensive tactic. Ganeev was from the beginning leading a two point difference. With only 45 seconds to go in the last period Ganeev scored 10-7. Sebastiaan did not give up and slowly clawed back two points. With only 6 seconds to go he made a very good compound attack only to miss his opponent’s jacket by an inch. One could almost hear the foil tip scratch over the Russian's lame. But the light did not go up...
Since they were standing in a short distance deadlock precious seconds ticked away. The fight was only halted with 2 seconds remaining. This was simply not enough time to surprise the experienced Russian who smartly backed away..
The 10-9 loss gave us a bitter taste, because Sebastiaan was so close. But in all honestly he had fought very well and these sort of bouts can go both ways.

The four English foil fencers had all made it to the last 64, but were all sadly also eliminated in their first fights.
Rhys Melia lost 15-4 to Yuki Ota (Japan), Jamie Kember lost to Gerek Meinhardt (USA) 15-10, Laurence Halsted lost 11-12 to Maor Hatoel (Israel) and Edward Jefferies did not fence his fight due to food poisoning.
Maybe disappointing but nothing to be ashamed of if you see how their opponents all ended in the final ranking; Ota 3rd, Meinhardt 3rd and Hatoel 8.

We stayed to watch the finals and saw some amazing fencing. The semi-final between the technically almost perfect fencers Yuki Ota from Japan and Sheng Lei from China was an amazing display of skills. The man of the day was the German fencer Peter Joppich who had escaped a few very close fights on his way to the final where he, for the fourth time in his life, won the world title. Mentally Peter Joppich is one of the strongest fencers I have ever seen.

It was a very good experience and hopefully next time Sebastiaan will do even better.

Chris Galesloot, ECfencing Foil Coach

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