Monday, 30 July 2012

Harry Peck reports on the Olympic Games Women's Epee event

Harry Peck, British No.1 Cadet Epeeist was a spectator at the Women’s Epee event at ExCeL and has kindly written his account of the days fencing. Harry has added a lot of extra stuff missing from my account of the day already posted.
Thanks Harry:

“Today was women’s individual epee, with 22 year old Corinna Lawrence representing GBR.
Corinna is GB’s only epeeist selected for 2012. As the 43rd top ranking fencer in the world – Corinna did not get an automatic place into the Olympics – only the top 16 win that right. She also just missed qualifying through the zonals (an extra qualification process for countries without a qualifying fencer, which allows an additional few fencers per continent into the competition). Corinna in fact qualified using one of the “host nation” wild card place – awarded by British Fencing. This was a wonderful extra opportunity for Corinna to build experience (and we all hope to see her use it to good effect in 2016 at Rio) but her resultant low ranking at the beginning of the event left her with a difficult days fencing.
The problem is that there is no pool in the Olympics –the format is just direct elimination – so if you have a low ranking going into the competition you cannot improve your position by performing well in the pools, and you will meet the best fencers very early on in the competition, and if you lose against them you're out.
The competition started with an incomplete sixty four – ten of the lower ranked fencers competing to get into the last 32. Four pairs fenced first leaving just Corinna and her Chilean opponent to fence alone, in front of 8,000 mainly GB supporters, all willing her to win.
Scary stuff!
With all the vocal support and pressure it is perhaps not surprising that Corinna was behind after the first session (three minutes). Perhaps her coach advised her to be brave in the first break, because she fenced much more aggressively in the second session. Some amazing fleches took her ahead, and she won 15 12, qualifying for the last thirty two.
Inevitably she then faced fourth seed, Simona Gherman. Corinna initially went ahead, but her opponent caught up and built a two point lead. This would perhaps have been dealable with but Corinna was slow then to attack, her opponent sat back, and Corinna was caught by the new non-combativity rule, with the match moving automatically into the last period, without a break.
We all cheered our support, at the top of our voices, Corinna pulled off more beautiful fleches but was ultimately overpowered by her opponent.
Corrina lost well. She saluted her opponent, and ref and then she turned to the audience and saluted us. The British audience rose as one to their feet. It was a brave effort, honestly lost, and the exhausted crowd expressed their admiration and hid their disappointment.
The competition was won by the Ukraine Yana Shemyakina, with Britta Heidemann second and Yujie Sun in third.
Watching others fencing was new to me, and I went home emotionally exhausted.
Nice try Corinna! I look forward to seeing you win through in Rio!
Postscript: the days fencing ended on controversy with German Britta Heidemann and Korean Lam Shin in the semi final. The pair were on even points after the final period, went into an extra minute, and then all the way down to one second.
Now here's the strange bit.
The German kept on attacking, and the doubles kept on coming. Three of them in one second. The clock went to zero when the fencers were not fencing, got reset back to one second. The referees then said there was a yellow card, and the timing was moved back to one second. Then the German scored and won. The ref took advice, found in favour of the German. The Korean refused to leave the piste for an hour while the Korean coaches lodged a written appeal. The appeal failed. The Korean coaches still told Lam to stay on the piste. Eventually she was guided off the piste by an official determined that she would not be given a black card. Lam Shin was then forced to compete for the bronze medal a few minutes later. She fought magnificently – and if this had been a film she would have won. Sadly this was real life fencing, and she lost and got nothing, except the admiration of all fencers who could not believe how she managed to hold everything together against all odds.”

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