Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Day 4 at the Olympics - Men's Foil:

I used to think foil was boring and somewhat pointless, a view that was reinforced by most of the foil I have seen over the past four years. And then along came Byungchul Choi (Korea) who took the foil bout and made it into a knock-down (literally) drag-out fight. In the first of Choi's bouts that I saw he was an in-you-face brawler, closing the distance rapidly, and being unafraid of running into the opponent. In doing so, he benefited from a lack of cards, although some of the actions were clearly corps-a-corps. In the round of 8, he fenced a much more classical bout against Ma (China), maintaining distance and using almost traditional looking bladework. However, in one action he closed to short distance, did a complete leaping pirouette in front of the apparently startled Ma, ending up in a crouch, and then fell down, showing that the white tiger was not completely tamed.

That took Choi to the semifinal against Abouelkassem of Egypt. Now Choi became very fast and explosive, and went back to his in-your-face style. His footwork was as fast or faster as any sabreur (and he did that in spite of a foot injury). This bout was a fight. Abouelkassem did not cave to the pressure, and demonstrated that he too was capable of acrobatics, doing one leaping attempt to hit Choi on the the back in sort distance, falling, and then rolling off the strip. Unfortuneately for Choi the referee in the semifinal did not tolerate the contact and the falls. Choi received 1 yellow and 3 red cards, losing to Abouelkassem (the eventual silver medalist) 12-15. Without the cards Choi would have won the bout, reinforcing the importance of managing your exposure to penalties.

Results notwithstanding (and he ended up with Bronze for Korea), Choi was great to watch. You could see the athleticism and the indominatable will to win. You could see this was a fight. It felt good.

Bouts tended to be fenced at longer distance than some of the short distance bouts we have seen recently. I saw an interesting use of the piste (in Baldini vs Cheremisinov) - a right handed fencer fencing on the his right edge of the strip. It certainly limited the ability of his opponent to fleche to the inside.

Actions were (1) simple attacks, (2) compound attacks, and (3) beats with direct and indirect attacks. Leverage became a factor in short distance and infighting, but I did not see any traditional prise de fer actions. Referee calls were reasonably consistent that moving forwrad with the body and not the arm or withdrawing the arm in the attack loses the right of way. A trend seen in other weapons toward the use of very fast, medium to short distance, attacks into preparation continued in foil, and inviting with movement without the attack coming out was an invitation for fast one-light attacks into the movement.

I saw at least two fencers use a high 6th parry with a direct flick riposte to the shoulder. The action looked very much like the old flying parry-riposte combination. In addition, there were a number of parry in 4-riposte combinations that closely resembled the timing of a time hit (stop with opposition).

Footwork included a good number of fleches. In addition, there were several cases of what can only be described as one fencer running down the strip against a rapidly retreating opponent, with both fencers executing actions as they moved.

There was a lot of fencing within the warning area. Both attackers and defenders must have a game for this situation, including for the one foot on scenario. To not do so surrenders control to the opponent.

Weapon arms took a beating. I saw a blister in the palm of a weapon hand that ripped open and more than one hard contact that required icing during the minute break. One fencer used the break to receive an arm massage of the weapon arm. The medical and athletic training staff were quickly responsive to the strip, and did a competent and professional job.

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