South Africa hosted its first ever Women’s Épée World Cup at The Birchwood Conference Centre in Boksburg earlier in May 2015. In it 175 fencers, representing 32 countries and 6 continents, come together for three days of intense competition.
Fencing has been an Olympic sport since 1896, and it has been practiced in South Africa for over 100 years. Though not wildly popular, the sport of fencing does hold the distinction of being the first sport in which Springbok national colours were granted to a non-white athlete, when Len Davids received his colours in 1977.
In recent years, it has been South Africa’s leading épée fencers such as Juliana Barrett and Sello Given Maduma, who have earned particular distinction on the international stage. Maduma went to the Olympics in 2008 and is making his bid for 2016. Barrett, while studying at University College, London, brought home the Bronze medal from the Commonwealth Fencing Championships held last November in Scotland, and earned Silver in the London International Open, as well as Silver atthe African Zonal Championships in Cairo.
Bearing in mind that not only was national pride at stake at this world cup, there was also the small matter of Rio 2016 qualification to think about as the formidable contenders from top fencing countries, including Hungary, China, Romania, Korea, Germany, Ukraine, Italy, and the United States, faced off in Boksburg. Among the competitors, were London 2012 gold medalist Yana Shemikyana of the Ukraine and Brazilian Nathalie Moellhausen, who took gold at the Pan American Fencing Championships earlier this year. Add to that Africa’s top-ranked female épée fencer Tunisia’s Sarra Besbes, fresh from her win at the Buenos Aires World Cup in February. To represent South Africa Juliana Barrett, Aphiwe Tuku, Lehlohonolo Masoeu, Giselle Vicatos—to name but a few.
The event kicked off with, Individual pool rounds on Workers Day Friday, then the Individual elimination rounds on Saturday, while the Sunday, 3rd saw the team competition closing off the proceedings.
Though the majority of South Africans were eliminated in the individual pools rounds, the experience of mixing it up with the best in the world would have certainly gone a long in widening their horizons with respect to the standards of international competitions. The competition ended a showdown between China’s Yujie Sun against Violetta Kolobova of Russia.
Yujie Sun (22) put up a dominant performance over Violetta Kolobova (23) to win by 15 – 6 showing exactly why she holds an Individual bronze medal and a team Gold from the London Games.
In the team competition, China piped Romania by a marginal 2 points as the finished 26-24. While France secured themselves a third place spot by beating Italy by 45-41.