Australian team fences into the history books at World Champs
1 August 2017
FENCING: Australia has achieved its best fencing World Championship result since 2003, with Sholto Douglas finishing 21st in a field of 156 in the individual men’s foil event at Leipzig, Germany, and the men’s foil team finishing in the top 12.
After advancing through the pool stage undefeated, Douglas automatically qualified for the direct elimination round of 64 held two days later.
“The only upset in the pools was my victory over the Japanese fencer Matsuyama, who is very strong and a past U20 Worlds medallist,” Douglas said.
“It was an improvement over other competitions where I've let my focus slip and lost matches I 'should' have won.”
The 21-year-old came out strong in his 64 match against Dutchman Daniel Giacon, streaking to a 13-7 lead before a scrappy exchange resulted in a torn uniform and a forced time-out to change kit.
Giacon came back stronger after the break, closing the gap to 14-11 before Douglas finished him off with a lightning-fast parry and riposte, to take the 15-11 victory.
The Commerce and Engineering student from the University of Sydney then came up against two-time World Championships bronze medallist and 12th-seed American Gerek Meinhardt in the round of 32, where he was defeated 7-15 to secure his overall placing of 21st.
Douglas was thrilled with his World Championship performance, saying he has found a new level of focus required to succeed in these top-level competitions.
“I’m extremely happy with my overall performance,” he said. “I was nervous for my 64 match because I knew I could win and make the 32, then was more relaxed against Meinhardt as I settled in to the day.
“Meinhardt was ranked world number one two years ago, and was very tough. I took too long to adapt to his speed and timing, but it was instructive, showed me some key areas to work on.
“Something interesting however, the competition, in particular the day of the 64/32, was so intense mentally in terms of my focus and emotions that the next day I felt a little lost!”
President of the Australian Fencing Federation, Evelyn Halls, credited the milestone performance to a recent boost in funding.
“Sholto is part of our high potential men's foil squad, a group of young fencers in their late teens and early twenties, who have already achieved significant international results at the junior level,” she said.
“Importantly, Sholto's result demonstrates the real impact the AOC's National Federation funding can have for smaller Olympic sports.
“The Australian Fencing Federation allocated $50k of the $100k funding provided by the AOC over the Tokyo cycle to support a modest program of training camps and international competition for Sholto and his three team mates in the lead-up to the World Championships. Sholto's achievement is a direct consequence of that funding.”
After achieving his competition goal of advancing to the round of 32, consistency will be Douglas’s aim when the World Cup season returns later in the year.
“The next goal is to repeatedly make the top 32 and starting to push for an occasional top 16 place, so that that can become the next benchmark.”
Douglas backed up his individual performance to join his teammates Edward Fitzgerald, Jesse Morris and Lucas Webber in the men’s foil team event where the quartet recorded Australia’s best teams World Championship result in 25 years
After defeating Belarus in the round of 32, Australia went down to France 29-45 and then beat Chile 45-23 to finish in 12th place out of 30 teams.
“This is the best result achieved by any Australian team at the World Championships for over 25 years, and a significant improvement on the team's performance at the last Worlds (in 2015), where they finished 22nd,” Halls said.
“As one of the youngest teams in the competition, this is a very encouraging result as our team builds towards the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.”
“It was a fantastic result!” Douglas said of his team’s performance. “And even better about our new world ranking of 14th.
“This is critical because in team competitions the top-16 play off for every place, whilst elimination in the 32 means you're done for the day. Being ranked within the 16 means we get a lower ranked team in the 32; so rather than having to cause an upset each time, playing off in the 16 gives us huge amounts of experience and many opportunities to face stronger teams.”
In other results, Freya Clarke was Australia’s next highest ranked athlete, advancing through the pool stage of the women’s individual foil event with three wins and three losses, before going down to 2016 Olympic bronze medallist Ines Boubakri of Tunisia to place 54th overall.
The 17-year old is only two places off cracking the top-100 in the world in the Junior ranks, and improved her Senior World Ranking by 26 places to 110.
The full Australian Results from the 2017 Fencing World Championships:
Ross Austen – 186th
Kristian Radford – 176th
Scott Rawlins – 181st
Dianna Gu – 104th
Sholto Douglas – 21st
Edward Fitzgerald – 93rd
Jesse Morris – 148th
Lucas Webber – 96th
Men’s foil team event – 12th