Adrenaline powered north London fencer Richard Kruse to a gold medal at the prestigious Shanghai Grand Prix on the world fencing circuit earlier this month. Kruse, who at age 33 is a four-time Olympian for Great Britain, foiled an attempted mugging in the Chinese city in the days leading up to one of the toughest fencing competitions of the senior international season.
“A few guys asked me to hand over my money or they’d use violence,” Kruse says of the incident on the streets of Shanghai. “They were bluffing. Still, it was an adrenaline rush for me, which helped me to win the competition.”
Kruse, who trains at Hampstead-based fencing club ZFW, overcame 2008 Olympic gold medal champion Benjamin Kleibrink, of Germany, on his way up the competition tableau, which saw 149 fencers from around the world vying for top spot. He also beat Nick Itkin from the USA, Ka-Long Cheung from Hong Kong, who is one of the fencing world’s rising stars, and Italian Lorenzo Nista.
In the semi-finals, Kruse secured victory over old rival Erwan Le Pechoux, of France, in a closely contested bout that demanded quick thinking and tactical adjustments. In the final match, Kruse overcame Italian Alessio Foconi, a determined competitor who has one international Grand Prix win under his belt this season.
“It was a pleasure to fence in the Shanghai Grand Prix,” said Kruse. “And it was a great feeling to win my fifth world tournament. I am grateful to Ziemek (Wojciechowski, ZFW founder and head coach) for his lessons and continued support.”
Said coach Wojciechowski: “ZFW is making steady progress thanks to the hard work of its fencers, coaches and a team of amazing parents. Richard Kruse’s victory in Shanghai Grand Prix is a huge achievement. However there’s lots of work still to be done and we are all hungry for improvement.”
ZFW’s younger competitors also stepped up to the podium. Faaris El-Saie became Britain’s under-10 foil champion, securing gold and signalling success for years ahead.
Dylan Daniel won the Valerie Degorce International Youth Trophy in a competition at the Leon Paul Fencing Centre in Hendon. ZFW clubmate Joe Donaghue secured the silver medal.
Pictured below: Peter Barwell (coach), Dylan, Joe, Rocco and Alberto, with Matt Abrahams at the front (coach).
Dylan said piste-side advice from ZFW’s coaching team of Peter Barwell and Matthew Abrahams ensured success. A week earlier Dylan claimed a bronze medal in England’s Eastern Regional Senior Championships. The fourteen-year-old said he was well-prepared to fence adults at this senior championships “due to the high quality of senior international fencers who attend ZFW. I get to fence against them every week”.
The medals kept on rolling at the Newham Swords Junior Challenge series, which was held at the University of East London. It was a clean sweep in the under-12 age category, with Leo Li Lim taking gold, David Sosnov claiming silver, and Griffin Partridge-Hicks securing bronze. In the under-14 field, Dario Stenbeck-Schiavo brought home silver and Alberto Mascioli took bronze.
Among ZFW’s more seasoned competitors, veteran foilist Paul Abrahams
(on the left) won the Trekanten International Nordic Championships in Copenhagen, Denmark. ZFW was represented at the senior level in Copenhagen by David Standen and Matthew Abrahams, who competed with some of the world’s finest. Standen finished 40, and Abrahams finished 38. Matthew Abrahams, who is 17, went on to compete as well in the under-20 age category, coming 18 in a field of 48.
Off the piste, Nikita Kuznetsov was awarded the University of London Laurels and Purples Sports Award.
And medical student and long-time ZFW competitor Alexander Lloyd was awarded Sportsman of the Year by Leicester University. Lloyd has been training with Wojciechowski for seven years, and credited his inspirational coaching for this success.
Of the award, Lloyd said: “It was a great honour, especially given it is my first year.” Lloyd has represented Great Britain for several years, and his international accomplishments span many countries and levels of competition. “I would like to express my thanks to the University of Leicester's Sport and Medical departments for their fantastic support and recognising my achievements this year,” Lloyd added.
ZFW is run by Olympic Coach Ziemek Wojciechowski with a team of dedicated coaches. The club aims to boost the standard of fencing in Britain by providing a centre of excellence for elite fencers training for Olympic, international and national teams. It also provides a learning programme, with an emphasis on youngsters. ZFW operates from South Hampstead High School in London. For more details, please visit https://www.zfw-fencing.co.uk