Bas Verwijlen: Born to fence

For as long as he can remember, Bas Verwijlen has been a fencer. Since childhood, he has practised the sport and he became an Olympian for the third time in Rio four years ago. Now, he sets his sights on making it four Olympic Games participations in a row.

In light of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the lives of many people, and particularly athletes, have ground to a halt. But for Bas Verwijlen, he’s never been busier.

Bas is one of the fencers on the circuit who works full-time alongside his sporting ventures, and he now finds himself working from home alongside his wife and daughter.

“The days go by pretty fast,” Bas told the FIE. “I’m a recruiter for the Dutch police service so 99% of my job is behind the computer. I’m working full-time from home now and, together with training and taking care of our daughter, the days go by pretty fast.”

In addition to an already busy schedule, Bas’s wife is expecting another child in just three weeks, which will only add to the family’s busy schedule.

In the Netherlands, schools and the majority of shops are currently closed, and most athletes are prevented from using sports facilities; but certain athletes who perform on an elite level are permitted to use these national facilities, and Bas is one of them.

However, he does not want to take any risks with his health or that of his family and decided to train at home, working exclusively on his physical fitness rather than his fencing technique.

“I’m lucky to have a gym at home, so I train there,” he said. “Fencing is not possible at the moment, but to be honest fencing was becoming a smaller part of my total weekly routine anyway. It might seem strange, but I learned that the less I fence, the better I am in competitions. Then I really want to fence and make creative actions.

“When I was 18, I was fencing three times a day, but now it’s a maximum of twice a week and this has really helped me get results.”

And the results speak for themselves.

For the first time in his career, Bas is on track to rank in the top 10 epee fencers for back-to-back seasons (2018/19 and 2019/20), and 2020 has brought him a World Cup victory in Vancouver, Canada, as well as a 5th place finish at the Grand Prix in Doha, Qatar. His most recent result saw him take 19th at the Grand Prix in Budapest, Hungary, and Bas remains positive.

“Vancouver was great, and Doha was also pretty good. For Budapest, I calculated that it would be hard to get a great result because in men’s epee it’s hard to get three or more good results consecutively, but overall physically and mentally I felt really good.”

And even though Bas is fencing less during his training, this enforced break has made him realise even more how much he is meant for this sport.

“I was almost born with an epee in my hand, and I belong on the strip. This feeling, the sensation and the stress is why I do it and it’s what I love, so not having that tension every weekend is very strange and I miss it!”

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