Photo: Richard Michell
Over the weekend, Richard Michell, a sixth former at Scarisbrick Hall, attended the Bonn International as part of the GB cadet squad. On Friday he flew to Bonn and that evening he had the weapons control equipment checks at the Olympischer Fechtclub stadium, then back to the hotel for an early night as the tournament started at 7.30am the following morning.
This competition was huge, twice the size of the largest UK tournaments with 227 competitors. Since this counted for national and international ranking points, it attracted some of the best fencers from around the world. In the seeding poules, Richard’s first fight was with Maksim Serhovets (EST), which he lost 5-3 and also his second with Matyas Pavlik (CZE) 5-1. During this fight Richard noticed several miss-hits where his weapon didn’t register, but it appeared OK when tested. After the fight, he discovered one of the screws holding the wires was loose and this probably cost him several points. Still struggling, he also lost to Celien Dumont (SUI) 5-4 and Mathieu Nombret (FRA) 5-1. Now it was starting to look like he would be cut from the tournament if he failed to win the last two fights! In spite of this pressure, Richard kept calm and took the fight to his fifth opponent, Simon Stange (GER) and at last prevailed 5-2. Encouraged by this, he went on to win the last as well against Moritz Schumacher (GER) by a solid 5-1. So Richard scraped through promotion, but his low seeding meant that his eliminator fight was with Ondrej Strnad, the Czech number five. Richard did his best to keep pace, but Ondrej proved too strong and Richard had to leave for an early shower with a final score of 15-9 and positioned 166th.
With this disappointing individual result, the team event on Sunday felt daunting. Great Britain fielded three teams and Richard was the B reserve. Due to the team seeding, the British B and C teams were drawn to fence each other in the first round and the lucky winners would then have to fence the current world champions, the Italian A! This looked like a guaranteed early finish for most of the British squad. The first fight went by the seeding and GB B beat GB C. Realising that Richard might not fencing at all, the B team captain let him open the fencing verses the Italians for the experience of crossing swords with world champions. So expecting to loose badly, Richard took to the piste to open the match. Determined to make the most of the opportunity, Richard was at his absolute best against world number 8, Riccardo Abate. Much to Riccardo’s surprise it was Richard who landed the first touch, a whipping foot hit on his preparation. He followed this up with two further touches and a double to the delight of the British supporters and the dismay of the Italian camp. Riccardo rallied himself and countered with two superb touches himself to bring the score to 4-3. Richard then attempted a flèche which found it’s mark, but Riccardo also made contact and the double hit brought the score to 5- 4 at the change of fencers. So for one magical moment the GB B team were leading against the world champions! (video here: https://youtu.be/b2rt0SZrm3w) Unfortunately, the rest of the Italian team realised they had to take the Brits seriously and gave a demonstration of why they are the best in the world, dominating by a decisive 45-17 victory.
The B team started putting away their kit thinking it was all over, when an official came over and explained that the top 24 teams were going to be retained to fight it out for each position. So they quickly got ready again to face their new opponents The Norwegian A team. Due to his performance against the Italians, the captain decided to keep Richard as the opening fencer for all of their remaining matches which were a loss to the Norwegians, a win against the Dutch A and a thrilling final match was with the German B team which they won 45-43. So the British B team finished a solid 13th. Credit must also go the the British A team who only narrowly missed out on a medal, finishing 5th.
Many people have helped Richard get to this level and, as always, much credit is due to the diligent preparation and coaching of David Stobbs, Scarisbrick Hall’s fencing tutor. In addition, special thanks must go to Patrick O’Malley of Nationwide Produce PLC and Alan Draper of R. Draper Ltd. Without their financial assistance, this trip would simply not have been possible. If there are any other local businesses that would like to sponsor future tournaments, please would they email Richard through firstname.lastname@example.org.
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