Bebe Vio: Italy’s golden girl
Italy’s Beatrice Vio successfully defended her women’s foil category B Paralympic crown at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games on Saturday (28 August) in convincing style.
Vio was swarmed by photographers and supporters after her latest win at Makuhari Messe against China’s Jingjing Zhou.
Zhou put up a good defence and performed well under the pressure of the increased interest brought on by her infamous opponent.
Keeping Vio within her sights in the opening moments, Zhou was only a couple of points behind until the score reached 4-2 and Vio began to make headway towards the medal. But a red card for Zhou pushed Vio into double figures and at 10-6 Zhou could not find a way to hit the target as Vio edged closer to her goal.
Zhou found three more points but Vio was relentless and won the bout 15-9.
“I’m so happy, I’ve been dreaming about this second gold for so long.
“It was such a tough year because so many things happened and so many painful situations, so I’m so happy right now and glad to have the best team ever by my side,” Vio said. “Because without them I would have never got this gold here.
“It was so hard because the measure was different between the other matches we did together before.
“It was the same final as in Rio (2016 Paralympic Games), but today was a completely different kind of match, with different techniques.
“We’ve fenced each other quite a lot, but today was so hard, surely the hardest match that I’ve ever had with her.
“In the ceremony of the presentation before the fight, we were up there together and she told me that she would beat me, so I was so scared and nervous that I had to get back on track with my mind.”
Full results are available at The International Wheelchair and Amputee Sports Federation (IWAS) Wheelchair Fencing website.
The Russian Paralympic Committee’s (RPC) Ludmila Vasileva patiently worked her way towards the bronze medal against China’s Rong Xiao in the bronze medal bout overcoming previous misses at the Paralympics to win 15-12. Four unanswered points left Xiao trailing and Vasileva finally got the medal she had been working towards.
“I’m so happy to win bronze because in Beijing and in London I lost both bronze medal bouts by 15-13. This time I managed to win this long-awaited medal. I learned my lesson.”
Vasileva celebrated her medal in her typical tradition, by singing a Japanese song halfway though her post-match interview. “This is a very popular song in Japan, and when I was competing in Kyoto two years ago I learned and sang it at the farewell party on the last day of the event. I usually sing our anthem, and after that I sing a traditional song from the country I’m competing in as a thank you to the organisers and everyone at the event.”
It was an entirely new podium at Tokyo 2020 in the women’s foil category A. China’s Haiyan Gu took gold, Ukrainian Natalia Morkvych took silver, and Gu’s teammate Jing Rong took bronze.
Haiyan Gu beat compatriot and defending Paralympic champion Jing Rong in the semi-final to claim her shot at the gold medal.
Morkvych registered the first two hits before Gu overtook her 4-2. A fencing wheelchair change seemed to work better for Gu as she then quite quickly began increasing her score and Morkvych stalled.
Gu waited for the right moment to riposte and won the match 15-8 surprising herself: “I didn’t expect to win this gold at all, it’s my best result ever. Before today in another competition I only went on until the semi-finals.
“I just wanted to get one hit after another. I didn’t think about the result, I just wanted to enjoy the match, every point and my performance.”
Gu revealed her plans to celebrate, “I think I’m going to call my family right now to tell them that I won. I haven’t seen them in two years, because of the pandemic we have been training in a different city, at a training ground somewhere else, away from them. I haven’t been home in two years. But I kept on talking to my family through the internet on a daily basis.”
In the bronze medal but it was a tough final point for Andrea Hajmasi as having lead throughout the match, the Hungarian had the podium spot taken away from her by China’s Jing Rong. Multiple red cards from Rong helped extend Hajmasi’s lead to 11-7 but Rong unsettled Hajmasi and drew the match at 12-12 before claiming victory 15-14.
China’s Gang Sun improved on his bronze from Rio 2016 to take a long-awaited men’s foil category A gold.
Hungary’s Richard Osvath, the silver medallist from five years ago, almost did not make it into the final after an incredibly close 15-14 quarterfinal with Italy’s Emanuele Lambertini.
Osvath had a similar slow start against Gang Sun who scored six points before Osvath found his way onto the scoreboard. Sun kept gaining momentum and Osvath could only keep trying as Sun took the gold medal at 15-7, leaving Osvath matching his performance from Rio 2016.
On Osvath, Sun said, “We’ve been competing so many times against each other but I think my condition today was better. I was nervous during the match, but I managed to do it.”
The RPCs’ Nikita Nagaev started well against Italy’s Matteo Betti in the bronze medal match. Nagaev scored six points before Betti, who is the only Italian man to make it to a medal match so far and who secured a silver medal in the World Championships in Rome 2017, was able to get himself on the scoreboard.
It was not until Nagaev was leading 8-4 that Betti was able to begin clawing himself up the scoreboard. Nagaev remained consistent however and took the bronze medal not long after, winning 15-11.
“I’m overwhelmed with feelings right now. It’s just hard to express how I feel,” Nagaev said. “I felt many emotions up there during the bronze medal bout I tried to control them. I tried to do my best and I did well.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s first, second or third Paralympic Games. The main thing is that I could get a medal here, that’s all that matters today.”
It was a repeat of the Rio 2016 final in the men’s foil category B as two Chinese teammates Yanke Feng and Daoling Hu – at his fifth Paralympics – faced off and Feng once again succeeded past Hu.
Hu started better bringing the score to 7-4 before the teammates found themselves drawing at 10-10, 11-11, and 12-12 as they were well matched for the bout. It came to the final point between Feng and Hu as they drew at 14-14.
It was Feng who found the extra hit he needed to end the match. “We are in the same team so we know each other very well,” he said. “We are familiar with our tactics and skills. I was just lucky to win the match by such a small margin.
“This gold means a lot to me because it took five years to have this competition. I appreciate all the support from the community and everyone. We really appreciate this platform, this stage they set up for us to show the world what wheelchair fencing is.”
The medals added another two to China’s six-strong medal tally from today’s foil events.
2019 World Championships silver medallist Dimitri Coutya was visibly devastated to miss out on a spot in the final before he convincingly claimed the bronze medal from RPC’s Albert Kamalov. “I hadn’t really had time to process it. We had to go pretty much straight back into the cool room for the bronze medal match. I’m gonna take some time to kind of get over today. But I had to put it aside for the time being, and just push through so that I could come away with another medal.”
Kamalov was clearly nervous and Coutya was able to score 10 points unanswered to build a deficit Kamalov could not overcome. Coutya claimed his third bronze medal of Tokyo 2020 at a score of 15-2, having medalled in the individual and team epee earlier in the week.
“I’m happy that I was able to keep it together and do what I needed to do. I can see the work that I’ve put in coming through. Having taken time after Rio to realise how many errors I’d made and how to improve my training, I’m happy that it’s come through and I feel I can see that improvement in my fencing. I just hope that everyone who’s been working with me can also say the same.
Sunday (29 August) sees the final day of competition with the team foil event. Join us on Twitter @IWASFencing for updates live from the competition arena and on Instagram @wheelchairfencing for the highlights of the day.