Archive for February, 2009

2009 Slough Open

Monday, February 9th, 2009

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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Royal Holloway Novice Foil

Monday, February 2nd, 2009

Saxon fencing club took second and forth places in the Royal Holloway Novice Foil this Sunday. Novice tournaments, for fencers with less than two years fencing experience are important development event for fencers becoming established in the sport. Saxon entered two mixed teams of three in a field of ten.

By recent tradition, Saxon teams are names after the warrior classes of Saxon society. The Saxon Fyrd, named for the Feudal Levy, consisted of Sharon Thomas, Christian Chilton and Christopher Cockburn. They dominated both of their seeding games, beating king’s college 45-26 and Royal Holloway 2nd 45-19. Christian was especially dominant early on, winning several of his bouts without reply. The teenaged Chris showed great poise and technique, putting together neat combination attacks (John would have been delighted with a perfectly executed appel-lunge which got him a single light) and Sharon discovered a previously unseen aggression which, allied to her excellent footwork made her very effective, if a little frightening, the referee had to restrain her several time from attacking before his call of “fence”. This earned them a semi final place against Kings College 1st team. This was an excrutiatingly close game throughout. The Fyrd were slightly behind from the start, but late in the day pulled back so the score, in the first to 45 match, was 41-41. Kings then kept their heads and picked off the last four points, denying the Fyrd their place in the finals. Tired after a long days fencing they suffered badly at the hands of Kinston in the 3rd/4th playoff, but still finished an excellent forth.

The Saxon Huscarles, named for the household warrior elite, had a far tougher qualification. The team of South African Elztette Roelofse, Italian stalwart of the Ealing rugby Vittorio Spadevecchia and promising youngster Edward Bentley drew Kings 1st for their first match. It was tight throughout, but Kings were always slightly ahead, leaving Vittorio with a 38-40 deficit to make up in his final leg. With the sheer competitiveness which he showed throughout the tournament, as well as the fencing equivalent of a crash ball through midfield, the Italian took the leg by the scruff of the neck to force a Saxon victory. After a second qualifier where they confidently out classed Holloway 1st team in a 45-19 drubbing, they faced a tough looking young team from Kingston in the semi. This was very tight to start with, but a strong middle leg by Bentley, broke Kingston’s back and the Huscarles were ruthless in finishing the bout. This pitted the Huscarles in the final against King’s 1st, who they had narrowly beaten in the first bout of the day. The final was a different story. Saxon went behind early, and despite a couple of mid- bout rallies by Elzette, who had increased in stature all day and the consistent Edward, Saxon were always chasing the score. They were rushed into some late mistakes, bravely trying to make up the deficit and Kings pulled away again for a deserved 45-34 victory.

We can be delighted with taking two of the top four spots, a ringing endorsement of the beginner’s programme (well done Lance and John) from where all of the fencers graduated in the last few months but most of all, of course of the hard work and application of the fencers. It was certainly a tremendous development exercise, after nervous starts, the improvement in the fencing of all six could be seen as the day went on. Well done to all.

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National Veteran Age Group Championships

Monday, February 2nd, 2009

Saxons Paul Lowen, Adrian Medhurst and Tom Girn all competed in the 2009 National Veterans Age Group Championships on Jan 14th.

Paul had taken the Cat 2 (50-59 year olds) foil championship for the last two years, so cam alonto defend his title. The competition was going well for him , but he lost out in one of his bouts by losing track of time (a common problem in the older categories of Vets fencing) when 1-0 down and being timed out. In a tightly fought contest, this was enough to tip the balance and Paul took a, still very creditable, forth place.
Tom and Adrian, after persistant pestering from Paul, entered their first veteran competition, in the Cat 1 Sabre for 40 somethings. Adrian was on a wave of confidence after his SE Regional performance. In a report on the match, told a week later in the Red Lion and Pineapple, the hirsute armourer described his tactical decision to rely entirely on foot speed, guessing that his oppenents, although experienced and skillful, might not be as quick on their feet as they were in their prime. This paid off and the wing-healed sabreur (pictured above in his pre-veteran days) took 4th place.
Tom, being new to sabre, struggled somewhat against the wiley vets, and his non-attendence at the pub to report his exploits, means the ghost can only report that he came in 14th. Paul, also fenced oin the sabre, as a digestif after his foil performance, taking 8th.

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