I coached two of my fencers this last Saturday, and that competition should count as an unalloyed success, seen from the vantage point of our club. The highlights include:

Our club got a gold medal in the WE senior event of the competition.

Our competitor in the U15 ME event fenced his second competition ever. In his first, he had lost all bouts, all but one of them by significant margins. This time he started his competition by winning, and scored 2 more wins in the poule stage. In the 3rd winning bout, he had reached a 4-1 lead, lost all of the lead to 4-4, but managed to pull his fencing together and score that 5-4 point. He did not win his DE bout, but he forced one of the better competitors of the event to fence until time ran out instead of scoring 15 points.

Finally, our competitor in the U13 ME event managed several positives. He won clearly over an opponent that he lost against in the previous competition. He repeated his win in a situation in which he got the priority, doing essentially the same thing as last time, not being seriously threatened during the entire overtime minute. He reached a 4-3 lead before losing 4-5 against the 2nd best competitor in the field, an opponent who had handed him quite lopsided defeats in the two previous competitions in this regional series.

On the way home, I tried – but failed – to put all the observations I made during the day into some sort of unified narrative. Instead, my take-home from this competition are some questions and observations. In no particular order:

  1. I saw a fencer quickly get a 3-0 lead in two poule bouts – only to abandon his so far successful strategy, which caused him to lose both bouts. How does one impress on such a fencer to keep on doing what obviously works?
  2. One epee final featured a pair of twin sisters, who obviously have been fencing a lot against each other. Also, there are no asymmetries in physical abilities and traits that either side could use as a building block for a strategy based on exploiting a comparative weakness in your opponent. Given that, I expected that the match would be very much the waiting game where both of them would wait for any small mistake to capitalize on, and complicated bladework. However, completely against my prediction, both of the sisters scored a significant number of their points by straight attacks without opposition or binding of their opponent´s blade – they just extended and scored on a stationary and completely undefended target.How did that come about?
  3. The U13 poule stage was run as a 15-poule, fenced on three pistes concurrently. One of the organizers worked as a caller, so that the right pair of youngsters came to the right piste at the right time for all 105 matches in that poule. While that system gave a lot of fencing to the competitors and also maintained a high piste utilization for those three pistes, it created problems for me as a coach. I was forced almost completely on the bouts in which my student was fencing, and got very few opportunities to scout out his upcoming opponent. Also, if there would have been multiple concurrently run events using that system, it would have been quite different to hear whether you are being called up among all the din.
  4. I would have expected a bit more starstruck youngsters, given that the fencer who presented the medals – and after whom the competition is named – is an Olympic and World Champion. But that did not happen.
  5. Video is indispensable for high-quality post-competition match analysis.

I sure hope to be able to put together a more unified report after the next competition.