GB fencers look to the future after tough Team test
8 months ago
Britain’s wheelchair fencers were already looking to Rio and beyond after finishing eighth in the men’s Team Foil at ExCeL this afternoon (Saturday) following three tough tests against some of the best sides in the world.
The GB team of Paralympic newcomers Craig McCann and Simon Wilson, plus David Heaton, who’s returning to the Games after an eight-year absence, lost their classifcation match 45-12 to a Hungary side containing former Olympic medallist Pal Szekeres after being drawn against the world’s no. 1 one team, Hong Kong, in the quarter-finals.
McCann, who’s only been fencing two years, said the experience of playing the best in the world was invaluable.
“I've learnt a massive amount. The experience I've got here is immense,” said the 28 year old from Doncaster. “I've only been fencing for two years so it is all about Rio and 2020, and hopefully beyond that.”
The Hong Kong side – including their London 2012 Sabre bronze medallist Chan Wing Kin, and Chung Ting Ching, who won three medals in Sydney 12 years ago – handed Britain a 45-19 defeat in this morning’s quarter-finals.
Heaton, a veteran of four previous Games, had five touches against Chung, while British Epee champion McCann also scored five hits against Chan.
Wilson, the British Foil champion, was Britain’s most successful fencer in the 5-8 semi-final against Russia, his five touches against each of the Yusupovs, Artur and Marat, making up two-thirds of Britain’s score in their 45-15 defeat.
The 39 year old Heaton from Blackpool was the last British fencer to win a Paralympic medal when he won a Sabre Team bronze in Barcelona 1992. But even his 14 years experience was no protection against Hungary in the classifcation match.
Hungary had lost to tournament favourites China in the quarter-finals, but counted Individual Foil bronze medallist Richard Osvath and the hugely experienced Szekeres in their team.
Szekeres is the only athlete to win Olympic and Paralympic medals, having won a Team Foil bronze at the Olympic Games in Seoul 1988. The 47 year old was involved in a bus accident in 1991, but returned to win Paralympic medals at every Games from Barcelona 1992 to Beijing 2008.
He will leave London 2012 empty-handed, but was still too skilful for the Britons, winning 5-0 against Heaton to put Hungary 35-11 ahead. Hungary’s third man, Gyula Mato then beat McCann 5-1 and Osvath finished it off, out-pointing Wilson 5-0 for the 45-12 victory.
McCann, who had four touches in his bout with Osvath, said: “I was very disappointed in my own performance in the Russia bout and I was quite hard on myself in the break.
“This is the culmination of two years of getting out of bed everyday so I had to prove to myself the reason I'm here. I only had one chance to do it and that was against Hungary, so that's what I came out to do.”
Heaton, who retired temporarily after Athens 2004, said the team had played better than the results suggest and should be proud of their efforts.
“The results didn't go our way. I think we all put in personal best performances. We're just disappointed that the win didn't come our way,” he said.
“Hong Kong are number one in the world so we knew that the quarter-final would be tough but we always believed that we could beat them.
“Once things start going against you that was it and I think our heads dropped a bit, but we brought it back for the next two fights and I'm proud of everybody.
“We've all fenced really well we just know there is a lot more we need to do to get to that standard. We've got some youngsters coming through now who can take it forward and have a good chance in Rio.”
Britain entered its largest fencing team for 12 years to these Games. Like the women’s team on Friday, the men were again cheered on by a full house in ExCeL’s North Hall 2.
“The reception we had was incredible, the crowd really lifts you,” said Wilson, who lives in Nottingham. “We're a very young team – we've only been together for less than a year.
“We were really proud to be selected and actually make it here. On paper we are ranked 10th and it was the top seven in the world, plus us, so it was always going to be really difficult, but we believed we could do it. Unfortunately, it didn't turn out that way.”