The official results haven’t been published yet but, at the end of the second poule I was seeded 9th out of 13. Not the most impressive result I admit but I did win half of my poule bouts which compares favourably with the foil competition the previous day when I won exactly none of them! I then got well beaten (I think 15-7) in the DE round partly due to nerves but mainly due to being outclassed by a far better fencer, Shane Whelan from Salle Duffy.
The competition reinforced my preference for fencing epee. For a start it’s slower than the other fencing forms which plays to my weakness; I am not fast. Most Irish fencers are young, fit students. They’re half my age and twice as fit, so competing on speed is not an option. With epee you can keep your distance and wait for an opening. I like the unambiguous nature of the scoring. Every point counts, you hit or are hit, and if you both hit simultaneously you both get the point. And where you hit doesn’t matter – the entire body is the target. Of course, out on the piste the target is mainly the opponent’s sword arm as that is the part of his anatomy closest to you.
What I find interesting about the competition is that it’s a more intense learning experience. You have to size up your opponent and figure out a strategy very quickly. And if that strategy doesn’t work in the first couple of hits, you have to revise it rapidly. The competition also showed that I need to work on my defence. When we’re fencing epee at the club we usually fence up to 10 and the concentration is on getting the 10 points. In the poules, while the bouts are only to 5, the amount of points your opponents score off you effects your seeding. In my case I gave away too many points, either through carelessness on my attacks – getting the point at any cost , or through impatience – trying to finish the bout as quickly as possible.
Photograph courtesy John Shiels/Action Photography Ireland