Polish delight at Euros as women claim team epee crown
Poland’s women’s epee team stormed to gold at their home International Wheelchair and Amputee Sports Federation (IWAS) Wheelchair Fencing European Championships in Warsaw on Friday (2 December), overcoming Hungary in style and winning the country’s first team gold of the competition.
Kinga Drozdz, Marta Fidrych, Jadwiga Pacek and Patrycja Hareza joined forces to take on the Worlds bronze medallists in the final having dispatched France in the semis. Hungary fielded a quality team of multiple Paralympic, World Championships and European medallists including Zsuszanna Krajnyak, Amarilla Veres and Boglarka Mezo.
In one of two incredibly tight and competitive finals to take place on Friday, the lead in the match changed multiple times. Heading into the final round, the scores were level at 38-38 with nothing to separate Drozdz and Krajnyak.
It was up to Veres and Fidrych to decide the outcome and once again there was little between them. Touch after touch landed on both sides, sometimes at the same time, causing groans from the audience.
But Fidrych got the deciding blow, letting out a huge scream and throwing her head back before being joined on the piste by her delighted teammates.
“We are so excited, we so happy, because our performance was very high” a visibly overwhelmed Drozdz said.
“Our performance is on the top of the top right now,” Pacek added. “Each fight that we had, first with the French and now with the Hungarians, it was everything that we were aiming for.”
Drozdz continued: “And we are in Poland and we will hear our national anthem so we are so proud to be here.”
Paralympic and defending silver medallists Ukraine were the victors against France in the women’s epee bronze medal match.
Yevheniia Breus, Olena Fedota-Isaieva and Nataliia Mandryk led all bouts except one against Brianna Vide, Cecile Demaude and Clemence Delavoipiere to win 41-35.
Great Britain’s Paralympic silver medallists Oliver Lam-Watson, Dimitri Coutya, Piers Gilliver and Josh Waddell emerged the victors from a match full of twists and turns against World Championships runners-up Italy.
The lead swapped throughout the match as Matteo Betti, Emanuele Lambertini and Michele Massa all put in exceptional showings for the Italians.
But in the last three bouts it was Britain who just had the edge. First Coutya regained the lead against Massa before Lam-Watson just did enough to keep Italy at bay in the penultimate round. With the score at 39-40 it was up to Gilliver and Lambertini, the individual silver medallist from Thursday (1 December), to determine the winner. It could have gone either way.
In the end it was Gilliver who carried the momentum, scoring five touches to secure the victory for Great Britain.
After the match Coutya reflected on the team’s efforts:
“I think honestly the work that we have put in, especially with each other in training allowed us to keep the momentum going and repeat our processes and make sure we were consistent as possible. We had a difficult start to the match but I think in terms of durability we won through on that one. We pretty much banded together and worked together when needed.”
Lam-Watson commented on how much attention he pays to the scores moving through the team events: “You’re always going to aware of this kind of stuff but at the same time we’re trying to take it one point at a time. With the team matches it’s not always about smashing every single match, it’s about all of us. Where some of us have ups and some of us have downs we work together as a team to get the score to 45. It’s one point at a time.”
The quad will go on to compete in the men’s team sabre which closes the competition on Sunday (4 December):
“You better watch out for us. We didn’t come here to take part, we came here to take over,” Lam-Watson said. “We’re a team to watch out for. We want to establish ourselves as one of the best teams in Europe and one day in the world. We’re coming for it. All of it.”
It was also a dramatic end to a marathon fight for bronze in the men’s foil team.
Paralympic champions France, consisting of Luca Platania Parisi, Damian Tokatlian and Maxime Valet, were enjoying the advantage over hosts Poland in the second half of the match.
But Dariusz Pender, Michal Dabrowski and Michel Nalewajek beat or equalled the French in the final four rounds to erode their lead.
It all came down to the last bout between Pender and Tokatlian. With just a three-point gap between the two countries Pender put in an incredible stint. He landed eight hits to reach the magic 45 and leave Tokatlian and his teammates out in the cold to make it a podium double for the hosts.
The 2022 IWAS Wheelchair Fencing European Championships continue on Saturday (3 December) with the individual men’s sabre and women’s foil.
The competition runs until Sunday (4 December) and features a full complement of individual and team epee, foil and sabre medals. It is also a qualifier for the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games.
Warsaw 2022 comes at the end of the 2022 season which has featured five World Cups, an Americas Championships and the under 23s World Championships as well as satellite competitions.