Rio 2016’s best wheelchair epee fencers are back on the piste on Thursday (15 September), but this time competing as teams.
In the women’s event it is the Hungarian line-up that tops the rankings. In Zsuzanna Krajnyak, Gyöngi Dani and Amarailla Veres the Hungarians have the well-balanced mix of youth and experience.
Both 37-year-old Krajnyak and 41-year-old Dani were part of the team that won team silver at Athens 2004 and London 2012. Adding fresh impetus to the line-up is 23-year-old Amarilla Veres, an individual bronze medal winner at the 2015 World Championships.
Krajnyak’s bronze in the individual foil competition at Rio 2016 means she has medalled at five consecutive Games but never won gold. She will want to change that when she competes with her team.
While Hungary hold the world No. 1 spot on paper, it is the Chinese team that are in title-winning form.
With Xufeng Zou and Jing Rong, China will field the gold and silver medallists from the women’s individual epee category A at Rio 2016. They are joined by Jingjing Zhou, the newly-crowned Paralympic champion in the equivalent category B event.
The other team likely to feature on the podium is Hong Kong, led by seven-time gold medal winner Chui Yee Yu. Any medal for Yu will take her collection to 10 and make her the most decorated female Paralympic fencer.
Yu is joined by another of the team that won epee team gold at Athens 2004, Yui Chong Chan. The Hong Kong trio is completed by Justine Charissa Ng, who together with Chan was part of the team that took the team foil title at the 2015 World Championships.
In the men’s epee team competition, it is France’s world champions that are tipped to take gold.
The French line-up will benefit greatly from the experience of Robert Citerne. Citerne, 55, already has three team epee Paralympic titles to his name, won at Barcelona 1992, Sydney 2000 and Athens 2004.
Their main threat also comes from a strong China team.
The Chinese line-up won gold at the 2013 World Championships in Budapest, Hungary, and are the reigning Asian champions.
In Gang Sun they boast the new Paralympic champion in the men’s individual epee category A. He will fence alongside Jianquan Tian, who took bronze in that event. The team is completed by category Bfencer Daoliang Hu, who won gold in the individual epee competition at Beijing 2008 and silver with the foil at Rio 2016.
The surprise package in the men’s event could be the Greek team. Two of the teammates have already medalled at Rio 2016– Panagiotis Triantafyllou is the Rio 2016individual sabre category Bsilver medallist and Vasileios Ntounis won bronze in the equivalent category A contest. Having experienced the podium once, they will be hungry to do so again.
Mike Stuart for IPC
Photo: Augusto Bizzi