Home gold for Bebe Vio-Grandis at Terni 2023
Italy’s Bebe Vio-Grandis delivered the hundreds of adoring fans the victory they had turned out for in Terni on Saturday (7 October), grabbing her fourth consecutive world title in the women’s foil category B.
The number of people in the stands at the PalaTerni had been growing all day in anticipation that the 26-year-old would secure a place in the final. Vio-Grandis duly obliged, advancing through the rounds to land in the last two against China’s Xiao Rong.
The clash was a rematch of the final from the last World Championships in 2019, but that is where the similarities ended.
Four years ago Vio-Grandis had eased past Rong but this time struggled to put the usual clear air between her and her rival for most of the match.
There was little to separate the pair for most of the match as Rong fought well to hold on to the double Paralympic champion.
But Vio-Grandis pulled on her immense strength and experience – the same power that has bought her back from two years away with injury – to just edge Rong into second. The final score was 15-8 and the Chinese fencer had to settle for silver this time around.
“[It feels] amazing. I have lost my voice and I’m just super happy and so proud about the team I had because all the things that we did are down to them, ” Vio said. “Because for my body it’s very, very tough to have this long distance between me and her. I don’t how, but it was like she was in another city.
“The crowd it was amazing. All my friends were there, all the family were there and I really feel that all the people in the crowd were there with me in that moment. I was able to recognise all the voices of all the people I love.”
Thailand’s Saysunee Jana and China’s Kang Su won their latest medals of Terni 2023, securing the bronzes. It was the third podium finish of the competition for both athletes.
Gilliver back in black
Great Britain’s Piers Gilliver – Another Paralympic and defending world champion – excelled on Saturday evening taking gold in the men’s epee category A.
Gilliver was disappointed not to have taken the win in the sabre on Friday (6 October), instead taking silver, but more than made up for it in the epee.
Also working against a home crowd supporting his opponent, Emanuele Lambertini, Gilliver kept his cool and stormed to a 15-4 win.
The victory is even sweeter as it comes after an injury-laden season for the British fencer. Since March, he has only competed at one World Cup.
“It really means a huge amount,” Gilliver said. “It’s been really tough and I’ve had to work as smart as I can to try to save the performance for these competitions. Yesterday it was a disappointing result not to come away with gold [in the sabre]. But luckily managed to make-up for it today.”
“For me it solidifies that I really am in a good position for Paris now. I’ve been fencing for a long time, but the last couple of seasons have been my best so far and it’s a really exciting place to be, and one I never thought I’d be in to be honest.”
Turkey’s Hakan Akkaya, 28, grabbed his first major international medal with bronze. The former youth world champion overcame Frenchman Luca Platania Parisi. Both athletes were hoping for their maiden World podium but Akkaya had the edge.
China’s Gang Sun took the second bronze on offer for his second medal of the Championships having won the title with his teammates in the foil.
China secured two more gold medals on Saturday evening, bringing their total to nine atop the medals table with just one day of team competition left.
Their efforts were headlined by relative unknown Benjun Qin who dispatched British title holder Dimitri Coutya to take the gold in the men’s epee category B.
Qin only made his international debut in July and is now firmly on the map.
“I am very, very happy and delighted to win,” Qin said. “The first part of the final was not good and in the second part I got my pace. This is a very special experience and I am very excited about the future events.”
His compatriot Jie Zhang joined him on the podium in third, alongside Poland’s Michal Dabrowski.
A long and tense bout between two Chinese teammates saw Paralympic champion Haiyan Gu emerge victorious against Xufeng Zou in the women’s foil category A. But Zou will no doubt console herself with the fact the silver is her fifth medal in as many days.
Another Chinese athletes, Yuandong Chen grabbed her fourth medal overall with bronze. Ukraine’s Nataliia Morkvych – the Tokyo 2020 silver medallist – showed that she still has what it takes to make it onto the podium by taking the other bronze.
Rounding off a busy day in Terni was Japan’s Michinobu Fujita who claimed his maiden world title in the men’s epee category C.
“I am very happy to be here and be the first place,” Fujita said. “The opponent has a very high level of technical fencing but I can use my speed and this is how I can win.”
Latvia’s Dmitrijs Valainis landed on his second podium of the week with silver. Ukraine’s Serhii Shavkun did the same, securing bronze alongside teammate and namesake Serhii Sheptitskyi.
The 2023 Wheelchair Fencing World Championships conclude in Terni on Sunday (8 October) with the men’s team epee and women’s team foil.