Kharlan and Oh take Gold at Seoul Sabre Grand Prix
Home favourite and world number-two sabre fencer Sanguk Oh from Korea has won gold at his home Grand Prix in Seoul, while Ukraine’s Olga Kharlan has taken her first international victory since winning the same event last year, an incredible fifteenth career Grand Prix win.
Korean sabre fencers have performed well at their home Grand Prix over the weekend, winning the men’s event and placing well in both competitions. In the women’s, London Olympic gold medalist Jiyeon Kim was runner up to Ukraine’s prolific medal winner Olga Kharlan in the final, who also beat her teammate Jiyeon Seo in their semi. In the men’s, Oh took victory from Hungary’s two-time Olympic champion, Aron Szilagyi, and his teammate, retiring 2018 world champion Jungwhan Kim, won bronze in his first major event since last year’s world championships.
Strong fields in both the men’s and women’s draw saw a few surprises, with the likes of women’s world number two from France, Cecilia Berder, defeated in the table of 32 by local hope Jiyeon Seo. World number one from Russia, Sofya Velikaya, also failed to make the semifinals, going out to another French woman, Manon Brunet in the table of eight. In the men’s draw world number one Eli Dershwitz from the USA failed to make the semifinals for the fourth competition in a row, losing out to veteran Korean Junghwan Kim at the quarterfinal stage, having gained a lead halfway through their bout.
There were several all-Korean bouts over the weekend as ten local fencers made it out of the table of 64 across both competitions. These included three at the pointy end of the draws. The first was when Bongil Gu claimed victory over Junho Kim, 15-12, in the table of 16, followed by the quarterfinal, when couldn’t repeat the dose against eventual winner Sanguk Oh, going down 15-7. The third was the women’s semifinal featuring Jiyeon Kim and Jiyeon Seo, with the former advancing 15-10.
In the men’s final, 22-year-old Oh had to fight back from a deficit of 7-2 to win 15-14 in a tense bout, already his fourth career Grand Prix win. At 14-14, Oh replaced his body cord to draw out the drama, before making a signature touch-at-the-death to win, sparking scenes of jubilation on the strip and in the crowd. To get there, he had earlier dominated Germany’s Max Hartung, who has been having an outstanding string of results in 2019, 15-2.
In the women’s, although her early round opponents took Kharlan to the wire several times on her way to victory, they couldn’t stop her from winning her 15th career Grand Prix gold. Coming up against Korea’s 2012 Olympic champion, Jiyeon Kim in the final — with who she has a long history — she had to fight hard to get the win. During the bout, Kim kept her nose in front until Kharlan hit the lead for the first time at 9-8. She then stretched it to 13-10 before Kim brought it back to 14-14, meaning that it was Kharlan’s deciding final touch that took her to a tense win in Seoul. The silver means Kim has still not won a Grand Prix in her career, although she does now have seven bronzes and two silvers. Her next event is the World Cup in Tunisia in two weeks time.
After the win, Kharlan took to social media to celebrate. ‘It turned out to be a very good, joyful and at the same time nervous weekend,’ she wrote on her Instagram account. ‘Thank you for all the congratulations and support.’ Fittingly, she also hashtagged the post #roadtotokyo2020
1. Sanguk Oh (KOR, Gold)
2. Aron Szilagyi (HUN, Silver)
3. Max Hartung (GER, Bronze)
3. Junghwan Kim (KOR, Bronze)
5. Eli Dershwitz (USA)
6. Luca Curatoli (ITA)
7. Kamil Ibragimov (RUS)
8. Bongil Gu (KOR)
1. Olga Kharlan (UKR, Gold)
2. Jiyeon Kim (KOR, Silver)
3. Manon Brunet (FRA, Bronze)
3. Jiyeon Seo (KOR, Bronze)
5. Sofya Velikaya (RUS)
6. Liza Pusztai (HUN)
7. Caroline Queroli (FRA)
8. Dina Galiakbarova (RUS)