The IWASF World cup in Warsaw is a much anticipated event on the wheelchair fencing calendar, and this year was no exception. The competition attracted large entries from most of the competing nations in this, the last event before the World Championships, which are to be held in Rome, Italy (running between the 7th – 12th of November).
Having taken a short break after Rio, I started the new year with Tokyo on my mind and how I could keep my fencing moving forwards; sometimes, this means going backwards, taking the technique back to basics and breaking things down to reassess and rebuild my form. I’ve also been working hard on getting to grips with a new second weapon (the Sabre) – I’ve been pleased with my progress since the first world cup of the season, achieving four Gold Medals and a Bronze in four events, along with an open international Gold in the ‘Tournio de Villemomble’ at Paris in March.
And so to Warsaw. Although you never feel fully ready for an event, I felt in good form at Warsaw; however, I did not start the competition with the best of poule results, winning all but one of my bouts (a loss to Ntounis of Greece, 5-3), resulting in my going through to the Direct Eliminations ranked 11th. This can make for a more difficult battle through the elimination rounds, and was indeed the case here, when, after having had a Last 64 Bye, beating Sim (KOR) 15-6, I went on to draw the Paralympic Champion, Sun (CHN), in the Last 16. This is when I was glad to find my form: I kept a level head and went on to win the match 15 – 4!
I was thrilled to have beaten my nemesis so convincingly in our first match since the Paralympic final – he is a formidable opponent! I met the German Schmidt in the L8 and won 15 – 8 to reach the semi-finals. This saw me meet nemesis no. 2 – Maxim Shaburov of Russia. This was a much closer match, with points going hit-for-hit each way until the last few stages of the match, when I was able to take the lead and win 15 – 13. This earnt me a place in the Final, where I met and defeated Noble (FRA) 15 – 4 to take the Gold Medal!
My Sabre competition also went well. I had an excellent poule, winning all of my bouts. This saw me through to the D.E’s ranked No 3 and, after finally losing in the L8 to Giordan (ITA), I finished the event in 6th place. I still have a lot to learn in sabre, but I’m really pleased with the way I fenced and how my training is progressing.
Overall, I was absolutely thrilled with this result – in Epee I had a great win in the strongest of company, and my sabre work is definitely going in the right direction. I feel that it’s shown me clearly what’s working well and what needs more practice; from this, I’m planning to spend the next few months training hard, both at home and at training camps in Ukraine and Switzerland. Warsaw has been my 9th World Cup Gold and I hope to make my 10th at the World Championships in November.