LAUSANNE (June 14) – When it comes to hitting form at the right time, fencers in Europe and the Americas know it’s now or never.
Next week these continents will hold their respective zonal championships, the last competitions on the International Fencing Federation (FIE) calendar before the Rio Olympics.
EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIPS, Toruń, Poland.
The European championships will be held in Toruń, Poland, where more than 404 fencers from 40 countries will descend on Arena Toruń, one of the country’s most advanced sports facilities, to compete for medals in six individual disciplines: men’s and women’s épée, foil and sabre, plus the respective team events.
The last four editions of men's individual épée were won by four different athletes: Gauthier Grumier (FRA), Andras Redli (HUN), Jorg Fiedler (GER) and Pavel Sukhov (RUS).
The most successful fencer in this event is veteran Gabor Boczko (HUN), who is looking to better his record gold medal haul of three (1997, 2002 and 2003). Boczko claimed bronze in 2015.
Boczko last European title in men's individual épée dates back to 2003. He has claimed two bronze and one silver medal ever since.
Last year's silver medallist Max Heinzer (SUI) will make a bid to become only the second Swiss to win this event, after Olivier Carrard (SUI) in 1982.
Besides last year's silver medal, Heinzer also claimed three bronze medals in this event in 2011, 2012 and 2014.
Only Pavel Kolobkov (RUS, G2-S3-B4) and Gabor Boczko (G3-S1-B2) have claimed more medals in men's individual épée than Heinzer (S1-B3). Ivan Kovacs (HUN, G2-S1-B1) also claimed four medals.
Andras Redli (HUN) is eyeing his second gold medal in men's individual épée, after winning the title in Strasbourg in 2014. So far, only Gabor Boczki (HUN, 3 gold medals), Iván Kovács (HUN, 2), Jorg Fiedler (GER, 2) and Pavel Kolobkov (RUS, 2) have managed to win this event more than once.
Pavel Sukhov (RUS, winner in 2012) and Geza Imre (HUN, winner in 2008), can also achieve this feat.
Andrea Cassara (ITA) can become only the third fencer to successfully defend his men's individual foil title, after Andrea Baldini (ITA, 2009 and 2010) and Salvatore Sanzo (ITA, 1999 and 2000).
Fellow Italian Andrea Baldini (ITA) could join Cassara on a record four European titles in men's individual foil. Baldini last won the title in 2010.
The last four editions of men's individual foil were won by fencers from four different countries: Cassara (ITA, 2015), James-Andrew Davis (GBR, 2014), Peter Joppich (GER, 2013) and Alexey Cheremisinov (RUS, 2012).
Prior to this run of four, Italy won five consecutive editions (2007-2011).
Alexey Yakimenko (RUS) has won a record five gold medals in men's individual sabre and can become the first fencer in either gender to win six titles in a specific individual event at the European Championships.
Apart from Yakimenko, Valentina Vezzali (ITA, women's individual foil) and Olga Kharlan (UKR, women's individual sabre) have also won five gold medals in one event.
Yakimenko's 11 total medals in men's individual sabre (G5-S4-B2) are already a record for any event.
Last year Aron Szilagyi (HUN) became the first Hungarian to win men's individual sabre since Bence Szabo (HUN) in 1991 and can now become the first Hungarian to win multiple gold medals in this event. Apart from Szilagyi and Szabo, Imre Gedovari won the title in 1981.
France (2011, 2015) and Switzerland (2012-2014) have won the last five editions of men's team épée.
Hungary (2010) were the last other team to claim the title.
France have won the last two editions of men's team foil.
Germany were the last other team to claim the title, winning in 2013.
Italy have won men's team foil a record eight times, including five consecutive wins from 2008-2012.
Last year Germany won their first gold medal in men's team sabre.
Prior to Germany's win, Italy (5) and Russia (3) had claimed all gold medals since 2007. The last team to win, other than Germany, Italy and Russia, was Romania in 2006.
Russia can become the second team to claim 10 gold medals in a specific team event, after Italy who have won exactly 10 gold medals in women's team foil.
Violetta Kolobova (RUS) can become the first woman to successfully defend the women's individual épée title.
Kolobova, alongside Ana Maria Popescu (ROU, 2013), Simona Gherman (ROU, 2012), Tiffany Geroudet (SUI, 2011) and Tatiana Logunova (RUS, 2003) can equal Ildiko Mincza-Nebald (HUN) and Imke Duplitzer (GER) on a record two gold medals in this event.
Hungarian women have won this event a record six times, but not since Adrien Hormay (HUN) won in 2008.
Elisa Di Francisca (ITA) can equal Valentina Vezzali's (ITA) record of five gold medals in women's individual foil.
Apart from Vezzali, Alexey Yakimenko (RUS, men's individual sabre) and Olga Kharlan (UKR, women's individual sabre) are the only fencers to have won five gold medals in one event.
Di Francisca won this event in 2011, 2013, 2014 and 2015. She can equal the all-time record of winning an individual event four times in a row, set by Stanislav Pozdniakov (RUS, men's individual sabre from 2001-2004) and Olga Kharlan (UKR, women's individual sabre from 2011-2014).
The last fencer apart from Di Francisca to win this event was Inna Deriglazova (RUS) in 2012.
Last year, Sofya Velikaya (RUS) ended Olga Kharlan's (UKR) four-edition winning streak in women's individual sabre.
For Velikaya it was her third gold medal in this event, second only to Kharlan's five.
Velikaia (G3-S3) only chases Ilaria Bianco (ITA, G1-S1-B5) for a record seven medals in women's individual sabre. Kharlan has also claimed six medals (G5-S1).
Russian (6) and Ukrainian (5) fencers have won the last 11 editions of this event. The last fencer representing another nation to win women's individual sabre was Aleksandra Socha (POL) in 2004.
Romania have won the last two editions of women's team épée and can now equal Russia's record of winning three editions in a row. Russia did so from 2003-2005.
Romania have already won this event a record six times (Russia next, four).
Ana Maria Popescu (ROU) was part of Romania's team for all six of those wins and is again part of the team in Torun.
Estonia were the last team before Romania's streak to win this event, claiming the title in 2013.
Italy have won the last seven editions of women's team foil.
The last team before Italy to win this event was Russia in 2008.
Prior to the start of the tournament, Italy is the only team to have won 10 gold medals in a specific team event. Russia can achieve this in men's team sabre.
Russia have won women's team sabre a record nine times, including the last four editions.
Prior to this tournament, Russia can become the second team to claim 10 gold medals in a specific team event, after Italy who have won exactly 10 gold medals in women's team foil.
Russia's men can also win team sabre for a tenth time.
Italy in 2011 were the last team to win this event before Russia's current four-edition winning streak.