Fencing at next summer’s Olympic Games will be both groundbreaking – the first to include team and individual events in all three weapons for men and women – and highly competitive, as the sport’s recent test event highlighted…
France’s men’s foil team showed that they will be no pushovers at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, when the venue for next summer’s fencing competitions was given a strenuous dress rehearsal from 13 to 15 December.
The Prince Takamado Trophy Men’s Foil World Cup doubled as a test event for the Games, drawing 211 foilists and 19 teams from around the world to Makuhari Messe, a massive convention centre spanning 210,000 square metres and consisting of three major zones that will also host taekwondo and wrestling next year.
The USA, with the world number one-ranked men’s foil team, may not have it all their own way if they are hoping to add a much-coveted Olympic gold next summer to their first world title, earned in Budapest in July 2019.
After winning world championship team silver in each of the previous two years, the USA overcame France 45-32 to claim the title, but the Frenchmen – Maxime Pauty, world champion Enzo Lefort, Julien Mertine and Erwann Le Pechoux – had the last laugh this time around, winning 45-39. France showed their potential and consolidated their place as the number two-ranked team, and their emerging rivalry with the USA is shaping up to be one of the highlights next summer.
The USA beat Russia 45-34 in the semi-finals, with France seeing off Italy 45-27. The Italians had the measure of Russia 45-38 in the play-off for the bronze.
France will see their victory as a timely boost in their pursuit of the team gold medal they lost to Russia at the 2016 Games in Rio, with the top four-ranked teams qualifying automatically for Tokyo 2020.
In the individual men’s foil, Italy’s Alessio Foconi, who took up the sport at the age of six, won the final 15-5 against Pauty, dominating the contest with his speed and skill from the outset in what proved a one-sided affair. While Foconi, the 2018 world champion, defeated his compatriot Daniele Garozzo, the Olympic champion, 15-10 in the semis, Pauty was too good for Alexey Cheremisinov, beating the Russian by the same margin to reach the final.
“We are in Tokyo for the second World Cup before the 2020 Olympics, and it was very important for me,” Foconi said.
“Maxime (Pauty) caught me with the foil and I needed some ice for five minutes, but this is a beautiful place and it was a wonderful experience. I feel strong, but I will take it step by step because it is a very long season.”
The Prince Takamado Trophy proceeded smoothly, as the fencers got first-hand experience of the stage for next year’s Games. The event coincided with the unveiling of Tokyo’s new National Stadium, which was finished last month.
Makuhari Messe, located in Chiba City and about 50 minutes by train from central Tokyo, will showcase a sport that has featured at every Olympic Summer Games since the start of the modern era in Athens in 1896.
Fencing next summer will feature 12 events. The Games will be the first to include team and individual events in all three weapons for both men and women.