Great Britain sent four athletes to the Paralympics in Tokyo, under the most difficult of circumstances due to the Covid19 pandemic.
On day 1 Piers Gilliver (Cat A Men) and Gemma Collis-McCann (Cat A Women) fenced in their respective sabre competitions.
Gilliver struggled in the pools with 2 wins and 2 defeats, leaving him ranked 11 in the tableau of 16. He faced Li of China in his first Direct Elimination match, losing 12-15.
Similarly, Collis-McCann found the pools tough going and lost all of her bouts, but she had started to pick up by the last bout losing 4-5 to Mogos of Italy. She was eliminated after the pools.
Day 2 saw Gilliver, Dimitri Coutya (Cat B Men), and Collis McCann compete in their respective epee competitions.
Collis-McCann beat Drozdz (Poland) and Matsumoto (Japan) but lost to Veres (Hungary and eventual winner), Rong (China and eventual silver medallist), and Evdokimova (RPC) finishing ranked 10 in the tableau of 16. She fenced Breus (Ukraine) in her Direct Elimination match losing 5-15.
Gilliver won all of his 6 pool matches, and was seeded 1 in the tableau of 16. He earned a bye to the quarterfinals, where he met Manko (Ukraine) and breezed through 15-2. In the semifinals he met Gang Sun (China) in a replay of the 2016 Rio final. On this occasion Gilliver exorcised the ghost and won convincingly 15-6. In the final Gilliver met his nemesis, Shaburov (RPC) but there was no quarter given, with an emphatic win 15-9 and a well deserved Gold Medal>
Coutya won all of his pool matches and was ranked 1 in the tableau of 16. He earned a bye to the quarterfinals where he met Datsko (Ukraine) and won 15-13. In the semifinals he met Guissone (Brazil) and lost 12-15, but in the bronze medal match he regained his composure to beat Pranevich (Belarus 15-11). This was sweet revenge for Coutya, because Pranevich beat Coutya in the quarterfinals in Rio, and also in the last World Cup Coutya attended in February 2020.
Day 3 saw Gilliver, Coutya and newcomer, Oliver Lam-Watson (Cat A Men) compete in the Men’s Team Epee competition. In the preliminary rounds GB beat Ukraine, France and Poland, to progress to the semifinals where they were beaten 35-45 by the RPC. In the bronze medal match they beat Ukraine again (45-38).
Day 4 Coutya fenced in the individual Foil competition. He won 5 pool matches and lost one match to Feng (China) finishing ranked 3 in the tableau of 16. He earned a bye to the quarterfinals where he met and beat Valet (France) 15-8. In the semifinals Coutya met Feng once again. The scores were close until Feng started to build up a lead at 7-10. Coutya recovered to 10-10, only for Feng to race ahead again to 10-14. Coutya clawed his way back to 14-14 before Feng scored the final point. In the bronze medal match Coutya took no prisoners beating Kamalov (RPC) 15-2.
Day 5 Gilliver, Coutya and Lam-Watson represented GB in the Team Foil competition. The situation looked bleak before the fencing began. In their pool GB had both RPC and Italy, neither of whom they had beaten in a foil competition before. Their first match was RPC, and the courageous warriors never gave up, winning 45-44, with Gilliver scoring 10 points in the final leg. After RPC Ukraine was much easier, with a victory 45-21. The pool match against Italy was also a victory 45-37.
GB finished their pool in 1st place and fenced France in the semifinals, winning 45-21, meaning they would fence China in the final. Just to put this match into perspective the Chinese team had the Cat A gold and silver medallists, and the Cat B silver medallist from the individual competitions. GB had the bronze medallist from the individual event, plus a rookie and someone who doesn’t fence foil in the individual competition. The scores were very close up to the last two legs, where GB led 35-34, however the strength of the Chinese opponents came to the fore and the match finished with victory to China 45-38.
These Championships gave the GB team a final medal haul of 1 Gold, 1 Silver and 3 Bronze medals. It is the best Paralympic medal tally for wheelchair fencing since 1984. It was a medal haul that left them third in the fencing medal table, behind China and RPC.
Congratulations need to go to all the fencers, the coaches, Peter Rome and Ben Peggs, and WCP Programme Managers Matt Hammond and Kate Eddy.
Special mention also goes to the three fencers who were not selected for Tokyo, but assisted with sparring duties, Shah Rashid, Josh Waddell and Justine Moore.