As I wrote on Facebook, I have been pretty sick for two weeks and had to withdraw from the U23 in Rome because I could not be out of bed for more than thirty minutes. Therefore, I am very amazed by (and happy with) this result.
I was actually not completely recovered yet when I went to this competition in Barcelona . Two days before my departure I had my first fencing training. And well, let’s say that I did not expect to even make it through the poules this weekend.
Unfortunately, this was the situation I had to work with and I was going to make the best out of it. Friday I flew to Barcelona, this time accompanied by three of the boys from the Dutch national team because the Satellite was for both men and women. On Sunday I was lucky enough to start my poule at 11, so I could rest a little more. I was in a poule of 7 and started with three losses. It was really frustrating to fence. I knew what I had to do, but I physically could not perform it. I was very slow and always too late with my responses. I realised that I had to completely change my game in order to have a chance to win. I did and it worked! I changed my game to an extremely defensive one and after that moment I don’t think I ever crossed the en-garde-line of the opponent again for the rest of the day. I was able to convince the opponent that they had to work hard and attack in order to get to me, so I could save my energy (or what was left) and beat her on technique and timing rather than muscle power and tempo. I ended up winning the remaining three matches of the poule and with a 50/50 score I qualified for the elimination round (T64).
My first elimination was against a Spanish girl who had a very slow tempo as her natural style. This was very convenient for me and I could just continue with the strategy of the poule and, quite easily, I beat her with 15-6. I did, however, find out that scoring 15 points had now become a massive job energy-wise. I sometimes had to take some extra time to rest by adjusting my shoelaces, socks or hair. I knew that this was going to be a problem the next round, so I ate some high-energy foods and took a nap.
The next elimination (T32) was against the Greec Aikaterina Kontochristopolou. I kept the same tactique and she was luckily very eager to attack. However, this girl was a better fencer than the previous one and soon enough she realised that attacking me was not the right thing to do. She changed her game and therefore so did I. This new game involved more movement and direction changes. Fencing at this higher tempo drained my energy levels and I had to work my way to the 1 minute break to catch a breath and give my body some time to recover. At this point the score was even and I was really testing the limits of my body. Since I constantly tried to go back into defense and save energy, we were using up all the minutes and eventually the score was 14-13 for her and we had a little less than a minute to go.
I am so glad that the boys were there, because their cheering and coaching helped me focus on my task and forget about all the pain in my body. I was shaking and close to hyperventilating, but one bold attaque á preparation made for a 14-14 score and everything was possible. She now attacked again and with the last bit of energy I had I managed to make a parade riposte and I won! I WON!
The next bout was against Ana Boldor from Romenia. This bout went almost the same as the last one. Only she never really changed her game, she kept attacking, but my energy levels were low and most of the points she scored were because I was not strong enough to parry or not fast enough to go back. Since my game was so defensive, we ended up in the third manche again. I fell twice because my legs were shaking too much, but eventually the score was 12-12 and the time was up. She had the advantage, but somehow decided to attack AGAIN. This was a little present for me, and when she attacked I scored with an arrêt and I won, again!
I was now in the top 8, which means I earned a point for the world ranking. Also, I was lying on the ground unable to talk, walk or, well, fence the T8 within 10 minutes! I fought with all that was left against the Italian Marta Camiletti, but after three eliminations that was not much. I lost this bout 15-3 and knew I had given all I had and reached the highest possible ranking for me that day.
That would have been a nice ending to conclude this weekend, but on sunday I had another competition! Initially this would have been perfect, because I could fence two competitions in the same weekend and save time and money. As you can imagine, I was not really looking forward to have another long competition day. On the other hand, I already had a good result in the pocket and nothing could take that away from me. Saturday night I went to bed straight after dinner, so I felt quite good sunday morning. I was sore and had to fixate my ankle with tape, but I was good to go.
I qualified for the elimination round by winning 4 out of 5 bouts in the poule. The level of the fencers was a little lower in the U23 compared to the Satellite. I even had a bye for the T64. Then I had an unlucky draw against the vert strong sister of Ana Boldor: Maria Boldor. Maria tried to do the same as her sister, and attacked. I still don’t know how I fooled everyone, but they kept attacking and thus fencing to my advantage. I could fence my strongest game on my part of the piste and won this match 15-10.
Again, I was not given much time to recover and after a much needed 12 minute break I was up against the last of the Romanian team: Malina Calugareanu. This girl learnt from the mistakes of her teammates and started off with a high tempo. Neither of us managed to lead over the other and after 8,5 minutes the score was a tie. Malina saw me struggling to keep up and with only 16 seconds on the clock she knew that if I got that one minute break, I would be ready to win. She launched and I was too late with my parry. I lost.
With a final ranking of 11th at the U23 and 8th at the Satellite I can say that I am very very happy with my result. I would have never thought this was possible when I was on antibiotics. Also, it was a “good” experience to push to and probably heavenly exceed my limits, although I do not plan to do this again any time soon. I now have to focus on recovery (full recovery that is) to be ready for the Grand Prix in Anaheim in March!