The preliminary rounds of the men’s epee grand prix in Rio de Janeiro—officially nicknamed “The Magnificent City” and, of course, host to the forthcoming 2016 Summer Olympic Games—took place today with 191 top fencers registered. With men fencing today and tomorrow, and women fencing tomorrow and Sunday, today featured men’s pools and eliminations to the tableau of 64, with the top-16 fencers having a bye until tomorrow. Epeeists from all over the globe – Japan to Denmark, USA to Uzbekistan, Argentina to Israel – competed today for the challenge of facing the world’s best in the morning.
Taking place on a sports-dedicated military base adjacent to Rio’s iconic Sugar Loaf (Pao de Acucar) mountain, today’s event featured numerous world and Olympic notables, including Italy’s Matteo Tagliariol, Venezuela’s Silvio Fernandez, Russia’s Tikhomirov, USA’s Benjamin Bratton, Hungary’s Gabor Boczko, Spain’s Jose Juis Abajo, among others. In spite of several of these fencers being Olympic and world champions (for example, Italian Tagliariol won gold in Beijing 2008), their rankings fall below the 16 so they must win their way into the upper-echelon of epee competition tomorrow.
It has been said about epee that “anyone can beat anyone on any given day,” and there are always surprises in both victory and defeat. While some predictable winners—such as Tagliariol—prevailed, there nonetheless are some who will fence tomorrow who beat the odds. Uzbekistan’s Nadirbek Usmanov won against Venezuelan Fernandez, USA’s Jason Pryor took out Kazakhstan’s Ruslan Kurbanov, and German’s Niklas Multerer lost to Poland’s Radoslaw Zawrotniak – all of which that were relatively surprising wins.
Epee has consistently become a more aggressive and faster event, with great crowd-pleasing qualities due to its simplicity (with no right-of-way rules) and double-touch scoring. Traditionally more defensive than offensive, and with the implementation of non-combativity penalties, the globalization of fencing has introduced more active, energetic bouts that increase in energy and excitement as the day’s event progresses.
Tomorrow promises some thrilling action as the top-16 fencers defend their position against today’s winners. With powerhouse epee masters such as France’s Ulrich Robeiri (ranked first) as well as world champions Italian Paolo Pizzo and Estonian Nikoai Novosjolov, there will be no shortage of surprises as well as fulfilled expectations in the form of dueling at its finest.