2009 Slough Open

The weekend of 6th and 7th of February was Slough Open weekend. Despite the unromantic name, this is one of the biggest and toughest tournaments in the domestic fencing calendar, with around 400 fencers, including many of the top fencers in the country were in attendance, competing in the “six weapons “ (i.e. Men’s and Women’s foil, epee and sabre). The Saxon turn out wasn’t quite as high as last year. Excuses ranged from the predictable (spousal commitments) the improbable (over-fencing) to the so-bizarre-it –must-be-true (watching C list celebrities ballroom dance at the O2 arena). The presence of a Medhurst in the Women’s foil raised some speculation that Adrian may have shaved his chin and palms to fence with the girls, but these proved unfounded.
However, the Saxon turn out was still good with Michael “Fred” Thomas, Edz Maldroom and David Standen in the foil and Grant Smith and Allan Coleman in the epee.

Edz, (to the chagrin of the Ghost) choosing to represent his other club , 126, had a tough poule. He won one of his matches, but missed the cut from 88 to 70 by the skin of his teeth, finishing 76th. David (also sailing under false colours as a St. Benedicts Man) had a more successful morning winning 3 of 6 bouts with a couple of notable victories. He was seeded 48th and came up against the 21st seed in the first round of DE. David lost 15-5 and finished at his seeding position of 48, earning valuable national ranking points.

Fred was desperate not to be outdone by Sharon’s heroics at Holloway. But he turned up to a different Slough Open, which existed in a parallel universe where all fencers are left handed. Seven bouts in the day, none against right handers… Fred won 3 of his 5 qualifying bouts, and was seeded 38th. In the first round of DE, he came up against the 27th seed. The bout was fairly even up until the end of the first period, with Fred leading 7-5. Then Fred found a burst of energy or inspiration (it’s unclear which, even to Fred) and he stretched it out to 13-6. Then inspiration (or energy) disappeared as quickly as it had come. Gradually, his opponent started to catch up. The final period saw Fred trying to time out the bout starting at 14-11. With 5 seconds to go and his opponent at 14-13, Fred finally remembered how to hit the target and finished the bout with a beat attack into the preparation, winning 15-13. In the second round of DE, Fred came up against the number 6 seed (who went on to finish as runner up in the tournament). Fred found him a little too hot to handle, losing 15-5, and finishing 27th.

(For aficionados, Fred’s 14th point was a triumph of luck over skill. Having forced his opponent to the back of the piste, Fred launched a compound attack and completely missed. His opponent planted a beautifully timed counter attack in the middle of Fred’s chest. One light, one point. But in gaining his hit, Fred’s opponent had stepped behind the back line and so conceded the point… take everything you can get, that’s what I say.)

The weather appeared to defeat Wayil Eisa, whose calming presence was much missed, but many thanks to Allan Coleman who came to support the foilists as a mental warm up for the next day’s epee.

In Sunday’s Men’s Epee Allan put by his supporting role, girded his loins and took up his weapon, along with habitual duellist Grant Smith. Allan has been out of competitive fencing for a while and struggled to readjust to the pace of a big open. He didn’t record any wins in his six bouts and missed the cut, resuming his role as second for his team-mate. Grant (as ever) felt he had a tough poule and was quite content with his 3 wins from 6. Unusually for him, these included two bouts which timed out- one he won through being ahead and the other on an extra-time hit to a retreating elbow. Avid followers of the inelegant epeeist will recall that at Slough last year he lost to the youngest boy in the competition. This year, however, he undoubtedly faced the oldest fencer in the competition (no, not him, he was at home watching the rugby) which was more to his liking. Grant though employed his new found patience and uncharacteristic finesse to stay out of his opponent’s range and pick off wrist and arm hits, winning 15-6. This, however pitted him against no.2 seeded Rob Jennings, who fenced an extraordinary, unorthodox, fast, attacking bout. Grant was 5-0 down before he knew what had hit him but somehow managed to score 9 points to give his score some dignity, but he was eliminated before the first 3 minute period was over to take 55th place. He was still happy with his top-half finish in such a high calibre competition.

So mixed fortunes for the Saxons, but all their performances must be viewed in the context of a large National open event and all can be proud of their performances. Edz fought bravely in one of those poules which fate throws at every fencer on occassion. David showed that he can now consistantly compete on the open stage. Fred further cemented his reputation, but perhaps might have gone further, but for his Sinistrophobia. Allan found his return to competition a bit of a large step, put provided invaluable support to his team mates and Grant had a tactical epiphany on the way to his customary just-above-averageness.
Apologies for the slightly asymetrical coverage….. the Ghost was busy during much of the weekend fencing, some some fencers performances didn’t get the reportage they deserve.

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