Wheelchair fencing year to kick off in Malchow
Germany's Simone Briese-Baetke will approach the first major wheelchair fencing event of 2014 with steely determination in her home country.
The first IWAS Wheelchair Fencing World Cup of 2014 gets underway on Thursday (16 January) in Malchow, Germany. It marks the start of what is set to be another enthralling year in the sport.
One to watch at the event is German wheelchair fencing star Simone Briese-Baetke. Though she was born in Rostock, just a short distance from Malchow, the London 2012 silver medallist says the kick-off to the new season excites her more than the location.
"The first competition of the season always has something special, it’s a challenge with great anticipation," Briese-Baetke said. "It does not matter to me where it is held. I approach this competition just like all the others."
Just as Briese-Baetke’s focus on preparation has not altered with the start of 2014, neither have her expectations for a tough season.
"Like every year, I expect fair, clean and exciting competitions," she said.
"Hoping a victory will be gifted to you isn’t possible. Tournaments will be fought to the last hit. Everyone is responsible for their own performance."
Briese-Baetke is the only German wheelchair fencer expected to challenge for titles in Malchow, though she said work is underway in the country to develop new talent.
She will take to the piste in the women’s category B foil and epee events where the international competition is exceptionally fierce.
The German No. 1 refuses to name the athletes she identifies as key challengers as it would go against the concept with which she approaches each tournament.
Another who will look to challenge for the category B foil event in Malchow is Italian prodigy Beatrice Vio, who Briese-Baetke describes as "a very young, dynamic, strong-willed fencer."
Great things are also expected from the Chinese athletes at the event. China’s dominance at recent major events was spurred on by outstanding performances from the likes of Jing Rong.
Rong’s gold medals in the women’s category A foil and epee events at the recent IWAS Grand Prix in Hong Kong earned her a nomination for the International Paralympic Committee’s (IPC) December 2013 Athlete of the Month award.
Ukraine’s Anton Datsko heads to Malchow looking for a return to winning ways. The world No. 1 in the men’s category B foil discipline has not won a title in the event in three major tournaments, having previously won three titles in a row.
As the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games draw nearer, Datsko won’t be the only athlete making it a New Year’s resolution to find top form.
For Briese-Baetke, however, the goals are strictly short-term.
"Without goals you have no motivation, but I work in stages, not in large steps," she said.
"I work from year to year, from competition to competition, from battle to battle, and, ultimately, from strike to strike."