Budapest 2013: 10 things to watch
Here are 10 major storylines to capture your attention on the piste at this week’s IWAS Wheelchair Fencing World Championships.
- Hungary for victory
Hungary is a country with a proud fencing record and a strong squad of competitors. Backed by passionate support, and with a number of Paralympic medal winners among their ranks, the Hungarian squad will be hoping to register multiple title wins in Budapest.
Expect Zsuzanna Krajnyak to be a challenger in both the category A foil and epee events, while Gyöngi Dani will be tough to beat in the equivalent category B events. In the men’s competition, Richard Osvath is due a good result in the men’s category A foil.
- New faces
The year following a Paralympic Games often brings opportunities for new competitors to make their mark and the World Championships is an ideal stage to do just that.
One athlete to look out for is Piers Gilliver of Great Britain. Having shown promise with a joint-third place finish at the World Cup event held in Eger, Hungary last December, Gilliver will be looking for a solid performance at his first world championships.
The 2013 event will also see competitors from Azerbaijan and the United Arab Emirates compete at a Wheelchair Fencing World Championship for the first time.
- Datsko aiming for further dominance
Since taking the silver medal in the men’s category B foil event at London 2012, Ukraine’s Anton Datsko has not looked back. He has taken the title in every major foil competition he has entered, winning three consecutive Grand Prix events before taking the top prize at last month’s Wheelchair Fencing World Cup in Warsaw, Poland.
Astonishingly, Datsko also competes with similar effectiveness in the category B sabre competition. Having recently won the gold medal for the discipline at May’s World Cup event in Lonato, Italy, a double world championship haul in Budapest cannot be ruled out for Datsko.
- Golden girl Yu Chui Yee
Yu Chui Yee says she heads to Budapest feeling confident. This won’t be what her competitors want to hear. Yee, 29, from Hong Kong, has won a medal each of the nine times she has competed in Paralympic competitions, seven of them gold.
Having taken both the women’s category A epee and foil events at London 2012, she shows no sign of a dip in form, also winning in both competitions at last month’s Wheelchair Fencing World Cup.
If anyone can stop her it will perhaps be Zsuzanna Krajnyak of Hungary, though Krajnyak will need to utilise all her experience and the support from a home crowd if she is to find a way to halt Yee’s incredible winning run.
- Pender looking to regain winning ways
At the start of 2013 Poland’s Dariusz Pender looked unstoppable. Pender followed a gold medal in the category A epee discipline at the London 2012 Paralympic Games with victory at the IWAS Wheelchair Fencing World Cup in Eger, Hungary, in December, and a joint third-place finish at the IWAS World Cup in Hong Kong later that same month.
At the subsequent Grand Prix events in Montreal Canada, and Lonato, Italy, however, Pender could only manage an uncharacteristic 5th and 7th place finishes respectively.
This decline was halted at last month’s World Cup event in his native Poland where he again topped the podium. Eyes will now be on his performance in Budapest to see whether Pender is on his way back to top form.
- Resurgent Russia
The Russian delegation will be aiming to top the medals table at the Wheelchair Fencing World Championships. They have looked extremely strong in recent competitions. At the recent World Cup event in Poland they won five events whilst also registering one second-place finish and seven third-place finishes.
Look out for Nikolay Lukyanov in the men’s category C epee and Alexandr Logtenko in the equivalent foil competition.
Dominating the country medals table won’t be easy, however, with Hungary, Poland and China all bringing strong squads to Budapest.
- Women’s category B epee rivalry
No category looks to be as open as the women’s category B epee. Any of five athletes can be considered genuine contenders for the title.
London 2012 silver medallist Simone Briese-Baetke from Germany is a strong and experienced competitor who has won two Grand Prix events this year. In the final of the Grand Prix in Lonato, Italy, she beat Liudmila Vasilyeva of Russia who will have been buoyed ahead of Budapest by a win at last month’s World Cup in Warsaw.
In Poland it was seasoned challenger Dani Gyongi who was runner up to Vasilyeva. She will be looking to make amends in her native Hungary. London 2012 bronze medal winner Yui Chong Chan of Hong Kong and Marta Makowska of Poland can also not be counted out. It will make for a fascinating fight for the world championship title.
- A Noble leader
French has a rich heritage of fencing and its continued progress in the wheelchair sport is spearheaded by Romain Noble. He will serve as an important figurehead for France in the team events and is a favourite for the men’s category A sabre event having made the podium in his past two events, winning three.
His main challenges will come from Wing Kin Chan of Hong Kong as well as Yijun Chen and Jianquan Tian, both of China. They prevented Noble from medalling at London 2012 and will look to do the same again in Budapest.
- Brits looking to keep London 2012 magic alive
A year has passed since the London 2012 Paralympic Games but its memory still burns brightly in the minds of many athletes who will compete in Budapest. The Great British team, in particular, are hoping to give supporters back home something to keep cheering about.
The British camp is also hoping up-and coming prospects Piers Gilliver and Gabi Down can deliver a strong performance in Hungary. Down, just 15 years of age, is quietly confident she can cause an upset: “I believe that every fencer is beatable” she said, speaking ahead of the event. “You just have to find their weakness, and everyone has one. There isn’t another competition for a while so I can afford to put everything I can into this.”
- Victory for Vio?
Recently identified as “one to watch” and winner of the IPC’s athlete of the month award for May 2013, everyone is talking about Beatrice ‘Bebe’ Vio.
At just 16 years of age, and the only wheelchair fencer to compete without arms and legs, Vio will be looking to round off a fantastic first year on the senior international scene with a strong performance at the World Championships.
Though it might be unusual for such a relatively inexperienced athlete to even be considered a world championship contender, no one who saw Vio take back-to-back category B foil titles at the Grand Prix events in Montreal and Lonato earlier this year would doubt she has what it takes to take the title in Budapest.