Veres, Gilliver golden in epee at Tokyo 2020
Wheelchair fencers Amarilla Veres of Hungary and Great Britain’s Piers Gilliver picked up their first Paralympic titles at Tokyo 2020 on Thursday (26 August), with Brazil’s Jovane Guissone also returning to the podium in epee.
Full results are available at The International Wheelchair and Amputee Sports Federation (IWAS) Wheelchair Fencing website.
Women’s epee category A
The future of Hungarian fencing seems to be safe in the hands of Amarilla Veres as she took the gold – her first Paralympic medal – after beating China’s Jing Rong.
Both looked comfortable quickly on the piste but it was Rong who started better, leading the bout into the double digits. Both women needed to score individual points, rather than the simultaneous hits they kept registering.
At 12-10, Veres took the lead for the first time and the potential of a gold medal in her grip spurred her on. Veres fenced urgently to win 15-12 and afterwards, waved the Hungarian flag on the piste to her teammates watching on.
It will take a while for the first Hungarian gold medal to sink in:
“Last night I was sitting in the Paralympic Village at the fountain crying because I did not expect not to be in the top eight,” Veres said. “When I lost yesterday [in the sabre], I was devastated. And then I was told that a true champion is a champion because you can get up from when you’re knocked down. So that was like my main goal for today.
“In the morning when I woke up I was nervous, of course. I kept thinking about how yesterday it didn’t work out for me. I felt like I was playing well, it just didn’t work out.
“And today I came here and I told myself that I have to do this for myself because I can get up and I’m here because of that.”
Rong could not outdo Veres and two red cards impacted on her match.
“I was very influenced by the cards and I became quite anxious” she said. “I didn’t adjust very well”
China enjoyed another podium finish courtesy of Jing Bian who dispatched another Hungarian, Six-time Paralympic medallist Zsuzsanna Krajnyak, on her way to the bronze medal match.
Bian then saw off the Russian Paralympic Committee’s (RPC) Iuliia Maya for the final medal spot.
Women’s epee category B
In category B, China’s world champion Shumei Tan once again showed careful control of the piste to claim her second gold medal of Tokyo 2020 against the RPC’s Victoria Boykova.
The final between Boykova and Tan was tense and ended a very low-scoring final.
Tan knows how best to work the clock and used the time well to focus on bladework close to Boykova’s weapon and strike with purpose.
Tan is looking forward to her team matches and hopes to increase her medal count there. “I am happy but I wanted to thank my coaches, my country and my teammates, because this medal belongs to all of them.
“We all work together, it is not only my result. This medal is the result of all the hard work of our team.”
Tan won the gold after scoring only three points against Boykova, highlighting the need for strategy.
Thailand’s stand-out fencer Saysunee Jana continued her Paralympic medal streak after picking up the bronze medal against China’s Jingjing Zhou at what is her fifth Paralympics.
Jana confirmed afterwards that she intends to be at Paris 2024 in three years time, and does not want this to be her last medal:
“My target was the gold medal, I really had hoped to go to the final match. But the [semi-final] match against Shumei Tan was very hard.
“It’s hard to play against her because she’s a very strong competitor. The last time I lost to her was at the World Cup and I lost by one point, so I really wanted to play her again at the Paralympic Games.”
Great Britain began their medal campaign on Thursday, bagging two medals, whilst the RPC claimed two silvers.
Piers Gilliver improved on his silver medal from Rio 2016 to secure gold in category A while Dimitri Coutya picked up a bronze medal in category B at his first Paralympic Games.
London 2012 Paralympic champion Jovane Guissone also picked up Brazil’s first medal in wheelchair fencing at Tokyo 2020 with silver.
Men’s epee category A
After a disappointing start to Tokyo 2020 by finishing 11th in the sabre on Wednesday (25 August) Gilliver showed how much more at ease he is in epee.
“Every discipline has different ways of fencing and styles and for me epee just really suits my personality,” he said. “I can take my time, be more creative with how I fence and problem solve, and kind of use my tactics. With sabre a lot of time I struggle with the sheer speed of it.”
There was an early rematch of the Rio 2016 final between Gilliver and China’s Gang Sun in the semi-finals but Gilliver was not giving Sun much of a chance to gain traction.
“Sun has been a huge rival of mine for a few years, and we fenced a number of times since Rio and every time is tactically different. It always changes, so for me I just had to focus on what’s my game plan and the best way to execute it.”
Gilliver’s long reach left Sun too much to do and he was unable to stop the momentum, losing 15-6 and pushing Sun into the bronze medal bout.
Gilliver then moved to the final against the RPCs’ Maxim Shaburov, claiming victory with a 15-9 scoreline.
After securing his silver medal, Shaburov shared how he is already looking ahead to Paris.
“In Europe I had a lot of wins in 2016. I was planning to go to Rio and I didn’t (the Russian Paralympic Committee did not compete at Rio 2016). And now finally I could come to the Paralympics (Tokyo 2020) and get a medal, but I need to work more to get the gold. This time my opponent was stronger than me. For the Paris (2024) Paralympics I will work a little bit harder and I can win the gold medal there.”
Sun faced teammate Jianquan Tian for bronze, but could not match him. Tian’s podium is his second bronze of Tokyo 2020 and eighth Paralympic medal overall.
Men’s epee category B
The gold medal match saw two of the most passionate fencers on the piste, Brazil’s London 2012 Paralympic champion Jovane Guissone and RPCs Alexander Kuzyukov, face off.
Kuzyukov’s rhythm was clear from the first allez as he did not allow Guissone any time to think about defending his attacks. He led from the beginning and Guissone found himself stalled behind the grit of Kuzyukov who kept coming for more points again and again.
Kuzyukov clinched the gold medal winning at 15-8 and was delighted with his performance.
“I can’t believe it, what I just did. It was very difficult to win, but I think today I’m the happiest person in the world.
“Today I managed to win against three Paralympic champions [ China’s Daoliang Hu in the quarter-finals, Belarusian Andrei Pranevich in the semi-finals and Guissone in the final).
“It was a long way to this gold, but I’ve never stopped. I trained all the time. I knew I am very serious about fencing. I do fencing because I really love it.”
Even before his shot on gold Guissone – who missed out on a medal at his home Paralympics in 2016 – spoke of his delight to secure a medal of any colour.
“I have my three kids on my shirt (under his jacket): they are Cecilia and Alicia, three-month-old twins, and Jovane Jr, who is 10 years old. I wanted to win this medal for my kids. I’m very happy to accomplish that promise and all the work that I did paid off today.”
Great Britain’s Dimitri Coutya was also celebrating on Thursday night after persisting against Pranevich in the bronze medal match.
Both fencers came out attacking with several double-hits equalising the score before Coutya was able to keep picking-up enough points win 15-10.
“Honestly it was a big relief. Today was quite tough,” Coutya said. “There was a lot of nervous energy carrying through, even into that last match. I was hoping for a better result. I think I can do better than what happened today, but the field is really strong. There’s a lot of great opponents here who’ve had to battle through such a difficult situation over the last year, and while I’m disappointed about is not being able to play my first Paralympic gold medal final today, it feels wonderful to win a bronze for Great Britain and my first Paralympic medal as well.”
Next up at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics is the first team event on Friday (27 August) as countries for gold in the epee.
Follow wheelchair fencing on Twitter @IWASFencing for updates live from the competition arena and on Instagram @wheelchairfencing for the highlights of the day.
By Bethany Ashley | For IWAS