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Douglas records breakthrough result for Australian Fencing

14 December 2017

FENCING: Australian fencer Sholto Douglas has achieved the best performance by an Australian men’s foil fencer in 13 years.

The 21-year-old achieved a career best performance when he placed 14th in a field of 189 at the recent FIE Grand Prix event in Turin, Italy.

In what was a full-strength event with 24 of the world’s top 25 fencers present, and 47 of the top 50, Douglas fought through the ranking round and four elimination bouts to eventually go down 15-4 to the Rio Olympic bronze medallist and current World Number 1 Timur Safin of Russia in the round of 16.

Douglas said it felt “great” to have his performance shoot him into the top 50 in the world rankings.

“It’s starting to look like it might just become a steady climb,” he said of his 26-place jump to World Number 47.

“It will also prepare me with an even better seeding into the next competition, which should give me a better pool in the group stage.

“Over the last 12 months I went from making my first top 64 to my first top 16, so I'm constantly exceeding my level.”

President of the Australian Fencing Federation, Evelyn Halls, said the Sydney-sider’s recent achievements are “the result of years of dedicated training by himself and his coach, Maestro Antonio Signorello.”

“Sholto has also benefited from the opportunity to undertake a much more extensive international competition program, thanks to funding provided by the AOC, Olympic Solidarity and the International Fencing Federation,” Halls said.

“We've always known that Sholto and his teammates had the potential to achieve great things, so it's wonderful to see those dreams starting to be realised.

“While the team's performances this year have been impressive, we believe there is much more to come as they aim towards Tokyo 2020.”

On his way to the final-16, Douglas defeated world number 15, American Gerek Meinhardt, who he had lost 7-15 to at the World Championships in Leipzig just four months earlier.

“I knew the fight against Meinhardt would be tough given how comprehensively I lost to him at World Champs,” Douglas said.

“Against an opponent that is so good, there is very little pressure, so my approach was simply ‘I've come up with good tactics and fresh ideas, if they work - excellent, if they don't - I'll only be disappointed if I wasn't able to stick to the plan’.

“This time, I was much better able to cope with the pressure he applied during the match, so I was able to stick to my ideas and they kept working extremely well.

“At the end, I went for too many cheap hits as I got nervous about the prospect of closing off the match, but he got more nervous than me (I think at the prospect of losing), and so he made several mistakes at the end that let me close off the match more easily than I had expected,” he said of his eventual 15-12 victory.

His final bout against Safin was always going to be a challenge, but also a good learning opportunity.

“I was able to fight him for the first portion of the match, but his conditioning and focus won over and he quickly ran away with it.

“As I get more experience in the [round of] 64, I'll get better at keeping the focus through the rounds, but I wasn't quite ready in Turin.”

Douglas, who is studying at the Tsingtua University in Beijing under a New Colombo Plan scholarship awarded by DFAT, aims to finish up his university semester in China before his next competition in Paris in January 2018, where he will be reunited with his Aussie teammates.

Georgia Thompson

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