The Race For Tokyo 2020 Begins
As of the beginning of April, the qualification season for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics has begun! April 4th, 2020 is the finish line when the qualifications will be solidified. To kick things off, we’re again tapping the expertise of David Baker to set the table for the qualification season. Over the next year, we’ll be periodically checking in to see how things are progressing.
Women’s Saber Qualification
We can immediately see the impacts of the surprising team results in Tunis. With no Russia in the qualified teams, Sofya Velikaya Velikaya (RUS) takes the first European place following her Tunis gold medal and top-8 at the Seoul GP. The next best placed European is Pusztai Liza (HUN), who couldn’t repeat her Seoul top-8 finish, losing in the last-64.
Some big names in the chasing European pack. We’ll keep an eye on Araceli Navarro Laso (ESP), Anna Limbach (GER), Márton Anna (HUN), and Pascu Bianca (ROU).
After taking out the USA fencers, Marissa Ponich – Fencer (CAN) holds on to the PanAm place but only improves by half a point for a first day finish. Belén Pérez Maurice (ARG) finished in the top-64 to close the gap to only 3 points.
Three Asian teams qualified really opens up the table. The first Asian place is taken by Aigerim Sarybai (KAZ) who finished strongly with a top-32 finish after a win over world number 13 Shao Yaqi (CHN). Taking the second place is Bhavani Devi (IND) who has a last-96 and a last-64 result so far.
Likewise, Tunisia qualifying a team means we have to look past Azza Besbes (TUN). The next best ranked African fencer is Nada Hafez (EGY).
Next up is the Grand Prix in Moscow at the end of the month.
Tunis hosted the first Women’s Sabre event of the qualification season and boy did it throw up some surprises.
World number 1 and world champions France were stopped in the last 8 by Ukraine in a 45-44 thriller but were able to win their remaining placement matches to finish 5th and take the first European zonal place.
Ukraine reached the final by beating Korea but were not able to beat world number 3 Italy who start the season with maximum points. Korea beating USA in the top-8 means that the USA start outside the top-4, meaning there is no room for another PanAm team.
The other surprise package in the last 4 was world number 9 Japan who had an incredible 45-42 win over Russia in the last-8, on top of a 45-37 win over Hungary in the last-16. With Tunisia making the top-16 via a win over PanAm challengers Canada, this means there is no extra place available and thus world number 2 Russia are outside the qualification places as it stands.
It will be interesting to see if Tunisia attend the remaining qualification tournaments – they did not compete the season as a team last time in Rio 2016 qualification.
Two Asian teams in the top-4 means there is room for one more – China’s top-8 result (including surprisingly large 45-22 win over Germany in the last-16) starts them in the qualification places.
No more team events until the zonal championships – but we will have a look at how this drastically different qualification table would affect individual qualification rankings.
Men’s Saber Qualification
World number 3 Max Hartung (GER) consolidated his place with a top-class win in Madrid. Max has opened up a gap between his German teammates, remember only one is able to qualify unless their team ranking improves.
The second European place is now held by Sandro Bazadze (GEO) following a strong top-16 result. Only one point behind is Tiberiu Dolniceanu (ROU) who finished in the top-32. Andriy Yagodka (UKR) is three points behind after a last-64 finish.
Ferjani Fares (TUN) couldn’t get past the top-64, but is still the strongest African fencer by some distance, especially with Egypt inside the top-16 in the team rankings. Likewise, a superb top-16 finish by Shaul Gordon (CAN) has opened up a large lead ahead of PanAm rivals.
Xu Yingming (CHN) didn’t make the 2nd day in Madrid, but his strong result in the Seoul GP at the start of the season keeps him in for the first Asian place. The Vietnamese team weren’t in Madrid, but the six points earned by Vu Thanh An (VIE) at the Seoul GP is enough to keep him in the qualification places. Kenta Tokunan (JPN) is chasing hard with a top-64 result in Madrid.
Italy took first place, but had to survive a scare from Great Britain in the last-16, only winning 45-42. Consecutive wins over European rivals France, Hungary, and then Russia in the final has given Italy a great start to the season.
Korea took the bronze medal, which starts them in the top-4 in the world, and allows another Asian team to qualify. Iran currently takes that place, finishing strongly in 5th after losing to Russia in the last-8.
As it stands, France takes the European place by virtue of beating Germany in the 5-8 tableau following their loss to Italy. The way it looks at the moment, only one of these teams will make it to Tokyo 2020 if there is an African team in the top-16.
A top-8 finish by the United States is easily the best PanAm result. Their nearest rivals Canada had a shock loss to Thailand in the last-32.
Egypt start the season inside the top-16 following a good win over Chile. They will need to do this regularly to stay in contention for the African place at Tokyo 2020 – France and Germany will be watching closely!
No more team events until the zonal and world championships, but we’ll update the individual rankings to see what impact the new team rankings have.
Women’s Foil Qualification
A great top-8 result from Leonie Ebert (GER) moves her firmly to the first European zonal place. Fanni Kreiss (HUN) stays in the qualification places after finishing in the top-32, but there are a number of chasers including 16-year old Nicole Pustilnik (ISR). Note this assumes four European teams qualifying – probably not an unrealistic assumption.
Two Chinese fencers are neck-and-neck for the first Asian zonal place. Shi Yue (CHN) leads Chen Qingyuan (CHN) by virtue of a higher finish in Tauber. The next highest ranked fencer is Liu Yan Wai (HKG) who jumps into the second Asian zonal place with a top-64 finish. Yana Alborova (UZB) couldn’t make it to the second day and is 0.75 points behind Liu.
Outside of the USA and Canada fencers, remains Saskia Loretta Garcia (COL) way out in front for the PanAm place despite a tough day in Shanghai.
Also a tough day for Ines Boubakri Le Pechoux (TUN), losing her first elimination match but easily good enough for the African zonal place. I’m sure we’ll see bigger things from her over the course of the season.
We’ll have a lot more clarity on the rankings following the Zonal Championships and World Championships.
France, Italy, Russia, and the USA have had a fairly tight stranglehold on the top-4 and this event was no different. Russia took the win, beating world number 1 France in the final. Italy won the bronze medal; the USA had to settle for 4th after losing their semi-final to France. I suspect this top-4 result will be a familiar theme over the qualification period.
The biggest upset of the day was a 31-28 win by Poland over Germany to move into the top-8 positions. Japan critically beat China in the top 16 before a heavy loss to Russia (sorry for the earlier typo!). Canada’s top-8 result via a win over Hungary opens up a sizeable gap between the next best PanAm team – if the USA stay in the top-4 then they have an obvious path to the Olympic Games.
I don’t expect any African team to challenge for the top-16, so we most likely will have an extra place available. That place is currently held by South Korea but we have a long way to go!
The next event for Women’s Foil Teams are the Zonal Championships followed by the World Championships in Budapest.
Men’s Foil Qualification
After the first Men’s Foil world cup two weeks ago in St Petersburg – they moved swiftly on to the first Grand Prix of the qualification season. With Russia starting the season outside of the team qualification places there is only room for one Russian fencer – and that is Timur Safin (RUS) who won the bronze medal.
The second European place is still held by 2008 Olympic Champion Benjamin Kleibrink (GER), who added to his bronze in St Petersburg with a solid top-32 finish. Further back in the European places is Michał Siess (POL), who kept up the pace also finishing in the top-32, and Klod Younes (UKR) who didn’t make it to the second day.
With three Asian teams in the team qualification places (Hong Kong, South Korea, China), the next fencer will almost certainly be from Japan. As it stands, that place is taken by 伊藤琢磨 Takuma Ito (JPN) who had a top-32 finish – only stopped by Erwann Le Pechoux (FRA).
With a superb pool result taking him straight to the second day, Sholto Douglas (AUS) currently sits in the second Asian zonal place.
The next best African fencer outside of Egypt is Mohamed Samandi (TUN) who escaped the pools but lost his preliminary-128 match. Likewise, the best PanAm fencer outside of the USA and Brazil is Augusto Servello who also finished in the preliminary-128 table.
Next stop Zonal Championships and then the World Championships.
Whilst it was almost “business as usual” in the Women’s Foil, the Men have had a much more interesting start to the season.
Some things don’t change though – the USA keep up their good form from Cairo in March to win the first event of the season.
Likewise, a solid top-8 result from Egypt confirms that they both have the African zonal place sewn up and probably have the quality to stay in the top-16.
The Brazilian team is also celebrating that result from the USA, on top of a great win over Japan in the 9-16 table which has opened up a small gap with Canada. This will probably be very close – remember for Rio 2016 these Brazil and Canada were TIED at the end of the qualification season (Brazil qualified because of their Zonal silver).
Joining the USA on the finals podium was Hong Kong, incredibly beating China, Italy and France to win the silver medal. Two Asian teams in the top-4 means that another zonal place is available, currently held by China but Japan will be looking to make amends for a fairly average start to the race.
But the reason that Japan were in the 9-16 table at all was for another incredible upset: 45-36 defeat by Great Britain. Team GBR look to be materially strengthened by the return of Richard Kruse to the team and are certainly a dark horse in the race at a minimum.
Only one European team in the top-4 means only one more can qualify. That’s currently Italy, but it’s anyone’s game with powerhouse Russia lurking, and Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, Poland, and Ukraine all in the points.
As with the Women, that’s it for the team events until the European Championships in Düsseldorf.
Women’s Epee Qualification
Popescu Ana-Maria (ROU) has added a top-8 finish to her bronze medal in Cali and has opened up a substantial lead for the first European place. A mirror image of this result (top-8 Cali, bronze Dubai) from Vivian Kong 江旻憓 (HKG) likewise puts her a long way ahead of her competitions – although note that this is with two Asian teams qualified.
France starting outside the qualification places means there is only room for Auriane Mallo (FRA) to take the second European place, following a top-8 finish in Dubai. Auriane is 14 points ahead of a chasing “hat-trick” of French fencers – they’ll be looking to improve their team performance so they can all be in Tokyo 2020.
Sarra Besbes (TUN) couldn’t replicate the magic we saw in Cali, not being able to get through to the second day after a loss in the top-96 to returning superstar Xu Anqi (CHN). Xu won team gold in London 2012 and as far as I can tell hasn’t fenced an FIE competition since team silver in Rio 2016 – what an unlucky draw!
That said, Sarra is literally miles away from the next nearest African fencer. A good Zonal Championship result will effectively lock in her qualification one year in advance.
Two PanAm teams qualified leaves Nathalie Moellhausen (BRA) way out in front. Again though, the Zonal Championship will be crucial to this individual place.
Similarly, two Asian teams qualified really opens up the race for the second Asian place. We go down to 70th on my adjusted qualification ranking to find Yoshimura Miho (JPN) currently holding this spot, however there are a number of chasers nearby – one result could change all of this.
World silver medalists Poland won the gold medal over world champions USA to take the first two places. Both teams will be happy with the strong start to the season there I think.
Not surprising to see China in the top-4. Their route to the semi-finals was made a little easier by the shock win by Hungary over France 38-33. World number 6 France start the qualification season outside the places.
Bronze medallists Italy will be much happier I’m sure – given the overall high quality of their fencers I’ll be very surprised if they aren’t towards the top of the rankings come the end of the season. Italy made the finals beating a strong Russian team, who were able to win their remaining matches and thus finish 5th and start the season in the European zonal place.
South Korea were beaten in the top-8 by the USA, but critically beat Asian rivals Hong Kong in the top-16 to ensure they start in the Asian qualification place.
Canada started the season with what was required – a top-16 place. Zonal rivals Venezuela and Brazil losing in the last-32 gives Canada an early advantage, however the upcoming Zonal Championships is going to be truly critical. A top-16 at the World Championships is probably needed as well to be safe.
Egypt missing the top-16 opens up another place. The next best team not qualified is Estonia, who were beaten by Poland in the last-8. Unless we see an African team regularly making the top-16 then this extra place will be available all season.
The next event is the respective Zonal Championships followed by the World Championships in Budapest.
Men’s Epee Qualification
So before Sunday’s team event we also had the individual world cup in Paris. The competition was won by 2016 Olympic Champion 박상영 Park Sang-young (KOR). With the Korean team outside the qualification places after the first team event of the year, he takes the first Asian zonal place.
Radek Zawrotniak (POL) had a tougher time of it following his silver medal in Cali, but those points are still good enough to keep him in the European qualification places. Likewise Wang Zijie (CHN) didn’t have the best day in Paris but a top-8 in Cali is more than enough for the second Asian place as it stands.
Tristan Tulen (NED) had a better day – following up his bronze medal in Cali with a top-16 finish in Paris to consolidate his place. Nikita Glazkov (RUS) jumps into contention with the silver medal, and there are a number of other European fencers not far away.
A top-32 finish by Jhon Rodriguez Quevedo (COL) provided some helpful points. The chase is on from 2012 Olympic Champion Ruben Dario Limardo Gascon (VEN) who finished in the top-16.
With Egypt currently qualified as a team, the race is wide open for the African zonal place. A top-32 finish by Alexandre Bouzaid (SEN) sets an early marker for qualification.
No more Men’s Epee until Zonal and World Championships.
The final team event took place in Paris at the weekend where we saw the Men’s Epee Teams in action at the spectacular Challenge SNCF Réseau.
The first shock of the day was the World Number 1 Russian team losing in the last-16 to Spain. The Spanish team went on to defeat Israel in the top-8 and ultimately finish 4th.
The top-4 was an all-European affair, with home favourites France beaten in the final by Switzerland, and Italy taking the bronze medal. The next best European team is Hungary, closely followed by Israel who also finished in the top-8.
After a disappointing individual day, Japan recovered strongly to finish 5th and take the Asian zonal place. I’d expect a strong challenge from the Korean team looking forward. It was surprising to see China lose to the Netherlands in the last-32 – they could certainly be contenders.
Whilst the USA will probably be unhappy with their loss to Japan in the last-16, they recovered well to finish 10th. Encouragingly, all their PanAm rivals lost heavily in the last-32.
Egypt looks like it has the calibre to finish inside the top-16. If they win the African Championships and make at least a top-16 at World Championships they’ve probably done enough to qualify for Tokyo 2020.
That sums up the current state of qualifiers at the beginning of the season. Over the upcoming months, we’ll continue to keep tabs on the field as things narrow. And as always, for faster and more frequent updates, check out David Baker’s Facebook Page – FencingTokyo
If you’re interested in attending the 2020 Olympics, check out Fencing.net’s Consolidated Guide To Fencing at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
We’re updating it as frequently as new information comes in. Now is the right time to prepare, as the ticket lottery ends soon, and accommodations are opening up for booking!