After a solid performance at Universiade 2019 in Napoli, our Uniroos met the rest of the Aussie contingent in Budapest, Hungary for the 2019 Senior World Championships. Australia was represented in all events in men and women’s epee, foil, and sabre throughout the 9-day championship.
Despite the odd cancelled flight and missing fencing bag during the 24+ hours of transit to Europe, the Australians were poised and prepared to shake their jetlag. The Aussie team were focused on the task at hand with exclusive use of the 12-piste training hall, a swimming pool, and the hotel gym.
Day one started off with individual Women’s Epee. Although Annie Devereaux (159) and Dianna Gu (149) did not progress pass the pool stage, Maddie Andersen and Emily Patten each had strong showings in their DE bouts in the preliminary tableau of 128. Maddie was up first against SMITH TAYLOR (GBR) – she clawed her way through to level the bout until eventually losing 15-11 and finished 139th. Emily was our lucky last for the women’s draw, competing against RAMIREZ (MEX) – after some heart-stopping back and forth points to level the score at 14-all, Emily’s opponent scored the final hit to close the bout 15-14 and finished 105th.
The afternoon of day one included individual Men’s Sabre. Will Campbell (139) and Zak Leonhard (141) did not progress pass the pool stage, however Alexandre Douglas and James Siu each fought hard against strong opponents in the preliminary tableau of 128. Alexandre faced off against fellow Asian Zone competitor ALSHAMLAN (KUW) and it was a battle for the middle as each athlete fought to gain the attack – Alexandre eventually was bested by his opponent 15-11 and finished the competition 118th. Our final Aussie for the day was James Siu with an acrobatic come-from-behind to level the score at 14-all against GELINAS (CAN), where he eventually lost 15-14 and finished the 109th.
Day two began with individual Women’s Foil. Our youngest athlete on tour, Mayuri Muralidharan (114), did not progress pass the pool stage, however Georgina Barratt, Freya Clarke, and Violet Hull each continued to the direct elimination stage of the competition. In the preliminary tableau of 128, Georgina Barratt (104) was defeated by PROESTAKIS (CHI) 15-9, Freya Clarke (110) lost to WONG (SIN) 15-10, while Violet Hull bested her first opponent ELZOHEIRY (EGY) 15-8. Moving into the preliminary tableau of 64, Violet was quickly overcome by hometown favourite KRIESS (HUN) 15-2 and finished the competition 96th.
The afternoon of day two included the largest field of competitors with individual Men’s Epee, where there were 18 athletes winning every bout in their pool! Although Scott Rawlins (220) did not progress, Mark Bianchin, Isaac Hayes, and Kristian Radford each moved into the direct elimination phase of the competition. Isaac Hayes (165) was defeated by his opponent MARKEVICIUS (LTU) 15-12 in the preliminary tableau of 256 while Mark Bianchin defeated KAVVADIAS (GRE) 15-10 and continued into the preliminary tableau of 128. Mark Bianchin (159) was eventually overcome by PATTERSON (CUB) 15-7, while Kristian Radford (111), who had a bye into the preliminary tableau of 128, was defeated by fellow Asia Zone competitor ALIMZHANOV (KAZ) 15-9.
The final day of individual events started off with individual Men’s Foil and concluded with individual Women’s Sabre. Sam Auty (131) and Caitlin Fox-Harding (134) did not progress through pools in Women’s Sabre. Lucas Webber (166) did not qualify out of pools and Ned Fitzgerald (99) was defeated by DELBERGUE (ESP) 15-10 in the preliminary tableau of 128. Chris Nagle (81) convincingly won his preliminary tableau of 128 bout against CANCHEZ SIFUENTES (PER) 15-11 before losing his preliminary tableau of 64 match against HASSAN (EGY) 15-9.
Sholto Douglas was in excellent form on the first day of his individual event, winning five of his six pool matches in Men’s Foil and automictically qualified to the main tableau of 64. The second day of individual Men’s Foil was full of upsets, with some of the world’s best falling short in their first direct elimination bouts. Sholto swiftly defeated BROSZUS (CAN) 15-6 to progress to the main tableau of 32. His next bout with fellow Asian Zone competitor SON (KOR) was an absolute heart-stopper, with the Korean taking an early three-point lead before Sholto took control of the bout to secure an 11-4 buffer. The Korean proved too strong and clawed back to level the scores 14-14 at the end of the first period. After the break, Sholto thought he had the attack but a lengthy video review resulted in a ‘together’ call, paving the way for the Korean to snatch a 15-14 victory with a clear one-lighter. Sholto finished the competition in 26th place with his opponent ultimately taking out the bronze medal.
Day six of the competition featured the preliminary rounds of Women’s Epee and Men’s Sabre teams. The young Australian group of Will Campbell, Alexandre Douglas, Zak Leonhard and James Siu fought well but could not overcome their more seasoned opponents, losing to Georgia 45-18 to finish 23rd out of 32 teams. Georgia went on to upset France before a narrow loss to the eventual bronze medal winners, Italy. Our Women Epee team of Maddie Andersen, Annie Devereaux, Dianna Gu and Emily Patten rattled the cage of their 9th-ranked opponents Germany but ultimately bowed out 45-22 to finish in 24th place overall.
Day seven of the marathon event included preliminary rounds of Women’s Foil and Men’s Epee teams. Our young Women’s Foil group of Georgina Barratt, Freya Clarke, Violet Hull and Mayuri Muralidharan fought hard against their opponents from Hong Kong but eventually bowed out 45-18 and finished 21st out of 30 teams. Later that morning, our Men’s Epee team including Mark Bianchin, Isaac Hayes, Kristian Radford and Scott Rawlins battled against their opponents from Belgium before losing 45-26 to finish 33rd.
The final day of competition for our Aussie team concluded with the Men’s Foil team event, featuring Sholto Douglas, Edward Fitzgerald and Lucas Webber. Despite a back-and-forth exchange of points at all ends of the strip, our team fell short to Denmark 45-43.
This championship event proved to be equally challenging and inspiring for our Australian Team, who never gave up and worked for every last touch. In the midst of an Olympic qualification year, our athletes pushed their opponents to the limit and demonstrated excellent sportsmanship and comradery. And despite being 15,000km from home, we banded together and supported one another unconditionally. Although it’s back to the proverbial ‘drawing board’ for our athletes and coaches, we must be reminded that as a team, we have made significant progress and can carry this momentum to achieve much more.
The AFF thanks the Australian Team for their participation, together with the support team that included:
– AFF Operations – Caitlin Fox-Harding for her logistical support;
– AFF Communications Director – Angela Bensted for her work updating the community on our social media platforms;
– National Weapons Coaches – Vlad Sher and Antonio Signorello;
– Team Coach (Sabre) – Mitchell Fox-Harding.