Gilliver eyes sabre medal at Tokyo 2020


Great Britain’s Rio 2016 Paralympic silver medallist, Piers Gilliver, is hoping to secure double-weapon dominance at Tokyo 2020 by medalling in both epee and sabre.

By Bethany Ashley | For IWAS

Five years ago in Brazil Gilliver became the first British wheelchair fencer in more than two decades to finish on the podium when he secured second in the men’s epee category A.

Since then Gilliver has remained one of the athletes to beat, including winning his first world title in Cheongju, South Korea in 2019. But Gilliver has also broadened his horizons since Rio and secured a Worlds bronze medal in the sabre. And that is not all – as well as his individual dreams, Gilliver revealed that the British team are eyeing a team medal to follow on from their third-place finish, also in epee, in Cheongju.

“My big goal is gold in epee and I’m also aiming for a medal in sabre,” he said. “Also, I’ve recently been competing in team events which is a new one for me. But, you know, we’ve had some good results so I’d love to be able to medal in the team event as well and I think it would mean a lot, especially with my team being such close mates., It’d mean a lot to come home with a medal together.”

The postponement of Tokyo 2020 has given Gilliver more time to develop his second weapon. “I’m quite lucky because the delay fell to my advantage with being able to have an extra year’s experience in sabre.”

How valuable the delay is to Gilliver is yet to be seen with limited competitions in the last year, but he is setting his own expectations high having spent a significant part of 2020 training towards becoming a multi-weapon fencer in medal contention.

The Paralympics have always been the focus for the 26-year-old with other competitions such as the International Wheelchair and Amputee Sports (IWAS) Wheelchair Fencing World Cup and World and European Championships building towards the event.

“A lot of people say, it’s the same sport, the same guys competing so what’s different? But there’s more to it than that. The results at Tokyo will come down to psychology, who can deal with pressure best in that environment, and not only deal with it but thrive under it.”

Piers Gilliver poses with a medal
Photo by Eva Pavía / #BizziTeam

Gilliver is also focused on developing his broader knowledge and will spend the final weeks ahead of the Paralympics honing his skills in preparation for Tokyo 2020. With competition being disrupted, Gilliver will need to show that his respective world No.1 and No.2 status in epee and sabre stands up against strong competition.

The pandemic has caused mass disruption across the world but Gilliver feels lucky that his training has not been as impacted as much as other athletes. It has given him the chance to form a training bubble with a small group of fellow athletes.

“I think as well that’s made us a lot closer as a team and as a kind of competing unit,” Gilliver said. “We became a lot closer as mates and a lot better in the competitive team aspects as well.”

“Of course, there are always the pressures and expectations but I’m really eager to return, I’m feeling really excited about Tokyo.”

The Tokyo 2020 Paralympics open on 24 August with wheelchair fencing getting underway from 25-29 August.