The Russian men’s and Chinese women’s teams claimed the last two gold medals up for grabs at the 2019 Wheelchair Fencing World Championships that finished Monday in Cheongju, South Korea.
China topped the medals table with 11 golds, seven silver and seven bronze. Ukraine finished third on three golds and seven bronze; whilst Russia had two titles, five silvers and seven bronze.
In the men’s epee team event, defending champion Russia had to battle hard against Paralympic gold medallists France, a contest that was a repeat of the final from the 2017 Worlds.
Maxim Shaburov, Artur Yusopov and Alexander Kuzyukov gained an early lead which was nullified by France around the halfway point.
France’s Romain Noble – the only man to remain in the team from 2017 – managed to level the scores at 24-24 against Kuzyukov, putting the Russians in a tight spot.
However, Yusopov, the individual epee silver medallist from earlier in the competition, came out fighting in the next face-off with Gaetan Charlot. Kuzyukov also managed to re-group for his final time on the piste, increasing his team’s lead back to five points against Yohan Peter.
From then on Shaburov and Yusopov just had to hold on. France kept scoring but by the final tie their deficit was nine touches. Yusopov landed four more to hand Russia the victory.
“We are happy and we feel very nice, because the victory came,” Kuzyukov said. “It was a very difficult match, and a very strong French team. We have faced them many times and it is always hard work.
“We appreciate the French team very much. It was exactly the same final as 2017 but this time they had new athletes. They are very strong and have a lot of ability and experience.”
Great Britain’s Piers Gilliver, Dimitri Coutya and Oliver Lam-Watson took home a surprise bronze medal after beating Italy 45-33.
A new champion
China impressed on their way to the final in the women’s sabre team. They overcame defending champions Ukraine in the semi-final, beating Nadia Doloh, Natalia Morkvych and Yevheniia Breus 45-33.
Georgia also enjoyed a great run, getting past the respective 2017 silver and bronze medallists Italy and Poland.
But China’s new individual sabre champions – Shumei Tan and Jing Bian – as well as Xiujian Wang were too strong for the Georgians in the gold medal match. They came from behind after the first two matches and built their lead from there.
The trio won all of the following rounds against Georgia’s Gvantsa Zadishvili, Nino Tibiashvili and Irma Khetsuriani.
“We work together to fight for gold, both in individual and team events,” Bian, Tan and Wang said through an interpreter. “Today the hardest match was against Ukraine, the points were very close so we needed to compete very hard to make the gap bigger.”
When asked how the team would be celebrating their incredible haul of 11 golds overall, they said: “The best celebration is to work harder to make another gold medal.”
Doloh, Morkvych and Breus did still finish on the podium, claiming bronze for Ukraine against Poland (45-38). Marta Fidrych, Kinga Drozdz and Patrycja Hareza tried to keep the Ukrainians in reach but the former world champions were too strong.
The 2019 Wheelchair Fencing World Championships ran from 17-23 September, and full results are available on IWAS’s website. As well as the world titles on offer, the competition was also a crucial stop on the road to the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.
The next event will be the final IWAS Wheelchair Fencing World Cup of the year in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, from 14-17 November.