At last month’s Wheelchair Fencing World Championships in Cheongju, South Korea, Chinese athletes won 11 out of a possible 22 gold medals from seven days of competition at the Cheongju Grand Plaza Hotel from September 17-23.

Events were held in three categories; A, B and C, dependent on the level of physical ability of athletes in both the team and individual disciplines of epee, foil and sabre. 

A number of performances stood out during the week-long tournament, including that of Great Britain’s Piers Gilliver, who won his first world title on his 25th birthday on the first day of competition in the men’s epee A.

Having defeated defending champion Maxim Shaburov from Russia in the quarterfinal, he was too good for China’s Sai Chun Zhong in the semi, before overcoming another Russian, Artur Yusopov, 15-9, to win gold.

“It was the best present I could have hoped for,” said Gilliver after the bout.

“It was a really tough final. Yusopov is a great fencer so every point I had to work really hard for, really push to the max. This win means the world to me.”

On Day 3 Italy’s Paralympic champion, Beatrice Vio, won her third women’s foil B world title in a row, defeating Chinese debutant, Xiao Rong, 15-5. Vio, who is the only fencer in the world with no arms and no legs, had to overcome a broken sword early in the match, but immediately went on an eight touch streak to close in on victory. 

“This Chinese girl is very strong,” Vio said afterwards.

“Normally I fence against (Jingjing) Zhou who was in the Rio final in 2016, so I was a little bit scared because I don’t really know how fast and strong she is.”

 “I started training eight hours a day for this in the middle of August, so I just have to thank everyone – my doctors, coaches and physios, because when you see an athlete with a medal it is not just the athlete, there is a big team behind.”

Dopo le difficoltà di ieri con la sciabola mi ero ripromessa di fare bene con il fioretto e… SBAM!💥🥇🤺
Ora sotto con la gara a squadre di domenica e poi si torna ad allenarsi duro con la sciabola per arrivare a #Tokyo2020 🎯🇯🇵 #Fly2Tokyo— Beatrice Vio (@VioBebe) September 19, 2019

The next day, Russia’s Alexander Kurzin finally got his first career world title in the men’s sabre B competition, defeating China’s Asian champion, Yanke Feng, 15-10 in a seesawing contest. Down 11-3 at one stage of the match, Feng won the next six points before Kurzin touched again to make it 12-9, and eventually close out the victory – his first since debuting at these championships in 2010.

“It was a lot of work and I’m very happy to have won the final,” he said through an interpreter.

“My training got me through and I’m happy to have finally won.”

Poland’s Rio 2016 Paralympic bronze medalist, Adrian Castro was Kurzin’s defeated semi-final opponent and was joined on the podium by his teammate Grzegorz Pluta.

On the penultimate day of competition, as the team events got into full swing, the Hungarian women’s foil team pulled off a dramatic one-touch victory over Hong Kong, 45-44 to claim gold.

Having already dug deep to beat Paralympic champions China, Zsuzsanna Krajnyak, Gyongi Dani and Eva Andrea Hajmasi then dispatched Russia, 45-37, while Hong Kong had to fight hard to upset defending champions Italy, prevailing by a margin of two points, 45-43.

In the final, Hong Kong established an early lead of 10-6 through Chui Yee Yu, before Krajnyak dominated Yuen Ping Chung 9-2 in their bout to make it 15-12. Hungary stretched to a five point lead through Hajmasi, who fenced a 7-0 over Chung again, but it was Chung who then brought the advantage back Hong Kong’s way, 35-33, after a 9-3 over Gyongyi Dani, who ended up with a TR of -18. 

The final two bouts were close, with Charissa Justine Ng managing to maintain the advantage 40-39 for Hong Kong going into the final three-minute period. In it, Hajmasi and Yee traded blows, but it was the Hungarian who scored the first four touches to make it 43-40. Yee then mounted a comeback and eventually the score ended up 44-44. On a video review neither was awarded the touch when both fencers thought they had won, before Hajmasi lunged to land on Yee’s chest and take the title.

Absolutely incredible finish to the women’s foil team!!

Hungary win against Hong Kong by just one touch – what an advert for wheelchair fencing that was!#Cheongju2019 #Drama #Foil @Paralympics | @FIE_fencing— Wheelchair Fencing (@IWASFencing) September 22, 2019

“This is a very important competition for us because this is our first world title,” Hajmasi said. “The group [Hong Kong] was very hard and they are fighters, they were a very strong team.

“The first match [against China] was very technical and a very good match. And after the Russian team and after the Hong Kong team and we win, this is incredible!”

“We are so happy to get a silver medal for Hong Kong,” Yee said. “For the semi-final we beat Italy, it was our dream because all four of us did a very good job.

“In the final, Hungary today is just very strong because they beat China and then Russia and it was a tough match and maybe we were just a bit unlucky. We are still very happy for the silver medal and we will try our best to do our job and hope we will be seeing every one of you [our fans] during the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics.

Throughout the tournament, China had winners on every day of competition, including five out of a possible six gold medals in category A, and team gold in the women’s epee, men’s foil and women’s sabre. Shumei Tan was especially successful, winning both the women’s sabre and epee in category B, despite entering world fencing a little over a year ago. 

The full list of results are available here. Wheelchair Fencing’s road to Tokyo continues next month in Amsterdam, Netherlands with the final World Cup of the year between November 14-17. 

Individual Winners

Category A

  • Men’s Epee Piers Gilliver (GBR)
  • Women’s Epee Xufeng Zou (CHN)
  • Men’s Foil Liqiang Chen (CHN)
  • Women’s Foil Jing Rong (CHN)
  • Men’s Sabre Jianquan Tian (CHN)
  • Women’s Sabre Jing Bian (CHN)

Category B

  • Men’s Epee Dimitri Coutya (GBR)
  • Women’s Epee Shumei Tan (CHN)
  • Men’s Foil Yanke Feng (CHN)
  • Women’s Foil Beatrice Maria Vio (ITA)
  • Men’s Sabre Alexander Kurzin (RUS)
  • Women’s Sabre Shumei Tan (CHN)

Category C

  • Men’s Epee Serhii Shavkun (UKR)
  • Women’s Epee (unofficial) Consuelo Nora (ITA)
  • Men’s Foil Nikolay Lukyanov (RUS)
  • Women’s Foil (unofficial) Hann Pashkova (UKR)
  • Men’s Sabre n/a
  • Women’s Sabre n/a

Team Winners

  • Men’s Epee Russia
  • Women’s Epee China
  • Men’s Foil China
  • Women’s Foil Hungary
  • Men’s Sabre Ukraine
  • Women’s Sabre China