Day 5 involved the final competitions of the tournament, Men’s and Women’sTeam Foil.
Great Britain, ranked 4, had a tough set of preliminary matches, against RPC and Italy, both of whom they had never beaten in foil before, and Ukraine.
The first match was against the RPC. The British were helped by the absence of the top RPC foilist, Roman Fedyaev. Nevertheless, after the first three legs the Russians were in a commanding lead. Newcomer, Lam-Watson started a fightback against Kamalov, followed by Coutya against Yusupov, and then Gilliver against Nagaev. Coutya kept a steady ship against Kamalov, then Lam-Watson scored seven points against Nagaev in the penultimate leg, leaving the scores at 35-40 to the Russians. Gilliver, with his least favoured weapon, ripped Yusupov to pieces, claiming the victory, 45-44 to Great Britain.
The boys had hardly had time to catch their breath when they took to the piste against Ukraine, on paper a much stronger side. However, GB didn’t let them settle, and the match was quickly over, 45-21 in favour of the British.
The third match against Italy saw coach, Peter Rome, change the order, leaving the rookie, Lam-Watson to fence the last leg. The Italians raced off into a lead, but by the fourth leg the lead had changed hands and the British were in control, eventually winning 45-37.
They qualified as winners of their pool and faced France in the semifinal. Master tactician, Rome, changed the order again, knowing that Coutya’s style of fencing is ideally suited against the best French foilist, Tokatlian. This time the British stormed off into the lead and never looked back, taking the match and a place in the final, 45-23.
The final against China, already had historians scrambling in the archives to workout the last time a wheelchair fencing team from Great Britain had achieved a Paralympic medal haul of five including a Gold medal – 1984. The Chinese have a large pool of athletes to choose from, and so are strong in every department. The British, on the other hand, have a total international collective of just seven athletes, so the three men who qualified for the Paralympic team fenced in every discipline.
The British fought for every point, the lead changing hands several times and the scores were close. By the penultimate leg the Chinese managed to extend their slender lead to 40-35, and on this occasion Gilliver was unable to make up the deficit, China taking the match and the Gold medal 45-38.
Although disappointed with their loss, the team were rightly proud to have made the podium again, and a silver medal to be a nice addition to the trophy cabinet.
This has truly been a monumental achievement by three fencers, one of whom only started fencing a couple of years ago, but is developing into an accomplished athlete. The effort and attitude, on the piste and in the gym, has been of the highest standard, and credit also has to go to Head Coach Peter Rome, and Assistant Coach, Ben Peggs, Matt Hammond and Kate Eddy, plus all the support of the backroom staff at Team Bath, where they train.