Today’s round of 16 in the women’s event at the 2015 Shanghai Foil Grand Prix featured a lineup of mostly familiar faces from the last several years of world competition. With representation from Poland, Italy, Russia, France, USA, Hungary, and Tunisia, Russia and Italy topped the ranks with the most qualifiers including Olympic legend Valentina Vezzali as well as world champions Elisa Di Francisca and Arianna Errigo. Russia’s coach, Stefano Cerioni (and former Olympic champion), has brought Italian fencing style to the Russian team with great success, ensuring Russia and Italy consistently reach the top ranks in evenly matched rounds. Featuring deep lunges combined with precise point control and well-timed attacks, the two powerhouse teams produce highly visual, fast-paced women’s foil fencing at its best.
The USA and France, both up-and-coming forces and formidable opponents for Russia and Italy, present a deep challenge to Russia and Italy through solid, well-coached technique if not the large number of qualifiers. France continues a long, historical tradition of technical foil fencing with a strong command of right-of-way and blade control, and the USA team enjoys recent success through consistent coaching, excellent in-fighting skills, and patience on the piste. The round of 16 is often a very athletic and energy-zapping point in the day’s event, and the winners who move to the quarter-finals and beyond have their endurance tested to its fullest.
Moving into the quarter-finals and medal rounds, perhaps the biggest wins were for Tunisia—Ines Boubakri defeating Russia’s Biryukova 15-14—and for France’s Astrid Guyart, overcoming Vezzali 15-12 with an energetic series of successful attacks. Her secret for her win? “I try to keep my fencing simple,” she said. “Simple, simple, simple footwork and point control, and my mind focused on my target.”