Something became very clear on our first day covering the IWAS Wheelchair Fencing European Championships in Sheffield – you’ve got to be quick if you’re going to keep up with this sport!
We witnessed some super-fast sword skills on the pistes in the Sabre competitions today. “But what on earth is the Sabre?” we hear you cry. Well, there's probably few people better positioned to explain the rules and etiquette of wheelchair fencing than the good folk at the European Wheelchair Fencing Championships website. Our snappy 60-second guide to wheelchair fencing should also help enlighten!
Anyway, to help us pick out some of the potential stars, we caught up with GB fencing ace Adrian Derbyshire just as the action got underway this morning. Unfortunately, Adrian is currently sidelined with a shoulder injury, but that didn’t stop him from turning up to check out the competition:
“I’m in the Category A Sabre and I’ve been competing for a year and a half,” he said. “There are some phenomenal French fencers in the class - Moez El Assine and Romain Noble - and Radoslaw Stanczuk of Poland is strong too. These guys have all won gold medals. It’s great to watch them and see what they can do because they’ve been fencing for ten years.
“For Great Britain, Tom Hall-Butcher and Alan Sheriff are my team mates. We all watch out for each other and try to help as much as possible. It’s all about team-spirit!”
But it was a mixed bag for the GB’s Category A fencers today. Tom Hall-Butcher managed to win two of his Poule matches, beating Poland’s Stefan Makowski and Spain’s Jesus Fernandez Gonzalez, before crashing out to Gerasimos Pylarinos of Greece in the knockout stages. Alan Sheriff failed to make it out of his Poule, as did Vivien Mills in the women’s competition.
But our Adrian certainly showed he knows his fencing onions – both El Assine and Noble stormed through to the final, making it a certainty we’d hear La Marseillaise at the medal ceremony later that evening. Russia’s Albina Kuramshina walked away with the women’s Category A gold medal.
In Category B, GB’s Simon Elliot managed to win one of his Poule face-offs, beating Manfred Boehm of Austria 5-1. Poland’s consonant-tastic swordsman Zbigniew Wyganowski got the better of Simon in the knockout stages, where Ukraine’s Anton Datsko came out on top overall.
In the men’s Category C Epee, another Ukrainian, Oleksiy Sundiyev, capped off a good day for the country by beating Italy’s William Russo in the final.
We’ll have more from Sheffield tomorrow. Make sure you keep up-to-date with all of the action by following our live ticker right here on Channel4.com/paralympics. You can also stay in-the-know by following us on Twitter and Facebook.