FolkestoneJack's Tracks

Olympic fencing at ExCeL

Posted in England, London by folkestonejack on August 5, 2012

Abandoning any hopes of a Sunday morning sleep in, I headed up to London’s ExCel centre on an early morning train to catch the last day of the fencing competition at London 2012. I was quite excited about the prospect of getting to watch competitive fencing after getting a taster of the sport at Cutlers’ Hall earlier in the year.

The setup in the ExCeL centre was quite a contrast to my first encounter with the sport – a darkened hall, spotlights and illuminated pistes all contributing to the futuristic feel. As if this wasn’t enough, there were even flashing lights within the fencing masks to indicate a strike.

Great Britain v Egypt at the ExCeL centre

The final day of fencing had been given over to the Men’s Team Foil and began with a match between Great Britain and Egypt to decide the final place in the quarter finals. The early start meant that the grandstands were far from full but there was still a great buzz to the place and support for Team GB was never that quiet!

In team foil the three competitors on each team fence each other once – with the victors decided over a total of nine bouts. It was surprisingly exciting to watch, though I definetly needed in-ear commentary to tell me what I was witnessing (particularly when touches were challenged or the referee stepped in). To assist spectators a screen above the piste showed the current aggregate score, who was currently on the piste and which fencer had scored each touch. The trio of Kruse, Rosowsky and Davis put in a great performance and won the match 45-33 to take up the last place in the quarter finals (for full details see the bout-by-bout scores in the official match results).

Action from the bout between Sherif Farrag and Richard Kruse

The quarter final would see Great Britain face the European champions, Italy, and the men’s individual foil world champion, Andrea Cassarà. Unlike the previous match, which took place in isolation, the quarter finals saw four pistes in use simultaneously which made for an interesting spectator experience. Occasionally a cheer would go up in another corner of the room and you would wonder what someone had seen, until you realised that it was another match. In a similar fashion the room reverberated to a range of chants in support of players and teams throughout the quarter finals, with the French spectators proving pretty vocal with their chant of “Allez les bleus”. The other matches taking place were China v Japan, Germany v Russia and USA v France.

Quarter final match: Great Britain v Italy (with China v Japan in the background)

If the form book suggested that the Italians would have it easy then no-one had told Team GB. The thrilling match was one of the highlights of the Olympics for me as the Italians were run incredibly close by Kruse, Rosowsky, Davis and substitute Halsted.

Team GB led 20-19 as James Davis handed over to Husayn Rosowsky

An upset really seemed possible when James Davis made short work of a Valerio Aspromonte, taking a trailing Team GB into a one point lead with a 9-4 win. More impressively still, Davis beat Andrea Cassarà 6-5 in the critical final stages of the quarter final. James really seemed to thrive on the atmosphere in the ExCeL centre, gesturing to the crowd to make some noise.

Richard Kruse and Valerio Aspromonte

Italy had regained a four point lead by the end of the sixth bout. Laurence Halsted was brought in as a substitute for the seventh bout (in place of an off form Rosowsky) and the commentators were clearly impressed with the result – saying that he really seemed to be on fire in his bout with Valerio Aspromonte which he won 6-5. Indeed, at one point early in the bout the score levelled at 31-31 and a semi final place seemed a real possibility.

31-31

The ninth and final bout saw Kruse face Baldini with a two point deficit to make up (the score being 38-40) but Baldini maintained his excellent form and increased the margin by three points, delivering the match victory to Italy with a final score of 45-40 (for full details see the bout-by-bout scores in the official match results).

Richard Kruse steps out of the light

In the subsequent battles for the minor placings Team GB beat France 45-29 but then went on to lose 35-45 to Russia, giving them a final position of fifth in the results table.

I hadn’t known quite what to expect from competitive fencing, but after a thrilling day at the ExCeL centre I was hooked. I would never have known what I was missing if the Olympic Games had not come to town…

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