To Olga go the Spoils!

Guest post from the team at Hot Fencer Of The Day

World Championships. They came, they saw, many kicked ass and some took names. But now a bevvy of the worlds best sabreurs are headed home (and with pretty much mandatory interesting flight connections, they might get there next week). Some come away be-medalled, some beaming with pride, others bemoaning their luck (and possibly some bedazzled….hey, what happens at World Champs stays at World Champs). Crowns have been passed on to new recipients, and their time in the sun has just begun. All hail the glorious victors!
I for one welcome our new Sabreur Overlords, but they might have a fight on their hands securing the best rooms at the fancy World Champions Palace of Victorious Victory (this is a real place, I didn’t just make it up), since the only Wold Champ to defend her title, already has dibs on the 206sqm penthouse apartment with elevator, dining-room, living room, gym, kitchen and bakery overlooking a private garden, three bedrooms with dressing rooms, secluded balconies, and luxury bathroom ensuites (everyone else has to fight over the remaining high end three bedroom apartments that don’t come with bakeries or private gardens) And seriously, after watching her bouts, you don’t want to argue with this lady. Not at all.

Olga Kharlan, 23, Ukraine, Women’s Individual Sabre World Champion 2013 & 2014


She's a really lovely gal
She’s a really lovely gal
and a great neighbour...but don't touch her stuff..
and a great neighbour…but don’t touch her stuff..
She absolutely can take you...
She absolutely can take you…
....and make you cry.
….and make you cry.
Do not be fooled by the innocence!!!
Do not be fooled by the innocence!!! really, don't be fooled...
…no really, don’t be fooled…
Well, I did warn you..
Well, I did warn you..
She has five clones, and by their power combined...
She has five clones, and by their power combined…
..she kicks ass. Here she's giving Russia what for...
..she kicks ass. Here she’s giving Russia what for…
She's already moved in anyway....
She’s already moved in anyway….
...and redecorated....
…and redecorated….
This is her table...
This is her table…
Best not to argue.
Best not to argue.
And the slumber parties....
And the slumber parties….
....they are serious business.
….they are serious business…..

2014 World Championships: Men’s sabre teams start tonight

Men’s sabre teams starts today with the round of 32 from 2pm Kazan/8pm AEST. Here’s the big table:

World Champs teams big table

We’ll be watching France v Georgia (go France!) and Iran v Egypt. Live results are available here.

The round of 16 onwards is tomorrow from 1pm Kazan/7pm Sydney. Given the way the individual fencers were performing on Friday, I’d love to see an epic showdown between Russia and Korea in the final. This will depend on both Russia and Korea being able to get past their traditional kryptonite opponents; Germany and Italy respectively. I have a fair bit of faith in the Russians being able to pull this off, but the Koreans are less of a sure bet. They’ve never had a great deal of trouble against Romania, but their record against the incredibly consistent Italian team is weak.

If Gu is well rested and Oh and Won continue their sudden return to form, they may  be able to pull it off even if Kim is still injured. If the other three are even vaguely awake and Kim stages the kind of recovery he did two weeks ago at Asian Championships, they should have it in the bag.

A Russia v Italy final would also be highly worth watching. The Italians showed a few weeks back at European Championships that they’re capable of taking down the Russian team on their home turf, and a rematch is pretty sure to make for some good television.

2014 men’s sabre world champs: individual wrap-up

First off, congratulations to Nikolay Kovalev of Russia for landing his first individual World Championship title. The 28 year old right-hander is known for his very dynamic fencing style and has long been my favourite sabreur on the Russian team, and it’s great to see the him return from a long spell of bad luck and ill health to the top of his game.

Image:  Mikhail Shapaev
Image: Mikhail Shapaev

To say that an a-grade sabre competition was tight and had a lot of upsets is enough of a bland cliche as to be almost totally meaningless. As noted in my last post, the margins in this sport are so small as to make a mockery of attempts at casual punditry.  I don’t think Kovalev had many serious backers predicting gold at yesterday’s event, with the numbers favouring Kim, Szilagyi and Reshetnikov and most coaches favouring Szilagyi in particular.

The results last night played out very differently from these comfortable expectations.

1 RUS KOVALEV Nikolay 1986
2 KOR NZ GU Bongil 1989
3 RUS YAKIMENKO Alexey 1983
5 HUN Vasas SZILAGYI Aron 1990
6 ITA MONTANO Aldo 1978
7 GER NR TSV Bayer Dormagen HARTUNG Max 1989
8 KOR WON Woo Young

9 KOR KIM Junghwan 1983
10 ITA Fed. Italiana Scherma BERRE´ Enrico 1992
11 ITA OCCHIUZZI Diego 1981
12 FRA 09 DIJON CE ROUSSET Nicolas 1988
13 GER NR TSV Bayer Dormagen LIMBACH Nicolas 1985
15 ROU BADEA Alin 1988
16 KOR OH Eunseok 1983
17 RUS National team RESHETNIKOV Veniamin 1986
18 ITA SAMELE Luigi 1987
19 USA HOMER Daryl 1990
20 RUS National team IBRAGIMOV Kamil 1993
21 BLR RCPhES BUIKEVICH Aliaksandr 1984
23 UKR Netishyn PUNDYK Dmytro 1989
24 KAZ MOKRETCOV Ilya 1984
25 UKR Musketeer Odessa YAGODKA Andriy 1988
26 USA SPEAR Jeff 1988
27 GER NR TSV Bayer Dormagen WAGNER Benedikt 1990
28 HUN Kertvaros DECSI Tamas 1982
29 GEO FC Kutaisi BAZADZE Sandro 1993
30 FRA 09 DIJON CE APITHY Bolade 1985
31 GER NR TSV Bayer Dormagen SZABO Matyas 1991
32 IRI ABEDINI Mojtaba 1984

Reshetnikov was taken out in the round of 32 by Won Wooyoung, who was fencing well above the form he’s shown so far this season. Kim was on track to cruise to a comfortable victory over Kovalev in the round of 16 when his hand was injured yet again, a moment which ended any chance he might have had of claiming the gold. Szilagyi, as I had feared, was clearly worn down by an arduous bout against a thuggish and unsubtle Sandro Bazadze and was subsequently outclassed by Gu Bongil in the round of 8.
The result was a top 4 which had only one of the pre-comp favourites. Dolniceanu had a pretty easy run of it up to the quarterfinals, but was crushed by Kovalev in a brutal and one-sided semi. The bout between Gu and Yakimenko showed all the classic hallmarks of the Korean’s game, with Gu trailing 8/5 at the break before surging back to a 15/12 win.

Gu's chasing game is almost as characteristic as his lunge.
Gu’s chasing game is almost as characteristic as his lunge.

After those performances, I do not think I was alone in expecting a close final. I felt that Gu had put in a stronger performance on the day and probably had the edge on Kovalev, who had benefited from a series of lucky breaks (Kim’s injury, favourable refereeing against Aldo Montano, a fairly lackluster semifinal from Dolniceanu). Then this happened (start from 2:30:00, fixed start times are not possible from the streams for some reason):

Not a nice bout.

Up to about 6/0, I admit I was wondering when Gu was going to quit playing around and initiate his usual game plan: allow his opponent to build a convincing lead, then launch a vicious 10/0 run of heavily-angulated flat hits and point-counterattacks. By the break, 8/0 down, it became apparent that the cavalry was not coming, and that the notoriously delicate young Korean sabreur had run out of gas even more catastrophically than he had against Szilagyi in the final at Padova earlier this season.

In the end though, it was a very well-deserved win by Kovalev, and a podium which neatly reinforced the perils of idle speculation before sabre competitions.

Photo: FIE
Photo: FIE

In the aftermath of the comp, the rankings table has undergone a major reshuffle. Gu had done enough to leap to world #1 for the first time since 2010, narrowly edging out his team-mate Kim, who retained his #2 spot. Reshetnikov has suffered a major fall from grace, allowing an impressively consistent Italian team to round out the top 10 behind Szilagyi, Yakimenko and Dolniceanu.  Kovalev has been joined by a resurgent Won to jump back into the top 16.

Current FIE rankings MSI, 2014-07-19
Current FIE rankings MSI, 2014-07-19

I know I’ve just declared that prediction is a mug’s game, but I sure am looking forward to a tight race between Russia, Korea and Italy in Monday’s team event.

I guess that means stay tuned for a Romania v Germany final.

Hawt Couture!!!

Guest post from the team at Hot Fencer Of The Day

It has often been commented that Italians know fashion. I’m sure we can postulate that everyone knows fashion, if in some cases it is simply to avoid being fashionable (intentionally or unintentionally as the case may be). But it appears to be a globally accepted meme that Italians do it better than most.
Whilst fencing whites create an air of athleticism, dignity and danger/mystery to the sabreur (ok, that last one may be apocryphal), I believe we can all agree, that in terms of what socially normalised ideas of Fashion are, they don’t really cut the (insert noun here as long as it’s not cheese). So what happens to hot fencers in dubiously fashionable fencing garb when they step from that world in to the world of the beau monde?

Aldo Montano, 35, Mens Sabre, Italy

This happens
This happens

This also happens
This also happens

Occasionally this happens, but we tend not to worry about it too much
Occasionally this happens, but we tend not to worry about it too much

The very rarely seen fashion of the medical accessory market
The very rarely seen fashion of the medical accessory market

Mustard is not generally fashionable, but here, it's definitely believable.
Mustard is not generally fashionable, but here, it’s definitely believable.

He may be a T-Bird. Also considered fashionale
He may be a T-Bird. Also considered fashionable

Underwear can be fashionable
Underwear can be fashionable


And this....this is for....
And this….this is for….

ok, so it's here for REASONS. sue me.
ok, so it’s here for REASONS. sue me.

Using Elo to pick winners

Facebook turned up something interesting this morning, via the guys at the fantastic Swordsport Productions page:

msi elo

It comes from the guys over at The Fencing Coach. They’ve used the Elo rating system, which was developed for chess but is now used across a range of sports to track player performance and predict match results. It’ll be fascinating to see how it stands up to the experimental test tomorrow in Kazan. It pretty much exactly mirrors my predictions last week, which have been based largely on anecdotal observation of the 2013/2014 A-grade season. Here’s to a Kim v Reshetnikov final!

Those of you who’ve trained at Sydney Sabre may already be familiar with Elo: it’s the system we use for our internal ranking scoreboard. The data we collect is not as useful for predicting the results of a standard competition, as we include the results of matches fenced with handicaps, but it is  an extremely powerful predictor of match outcomes under our standard club training conditions, and functions very well in its primary role as a matchmaking system.

It’s worth noting that this isn’t based on the win/loss results over the season, as a true Elo model should be, only on the FIE ranking at the end of the season. The aim is apparently to do a proper Elo model over 2014/2015, and it will be very interesting to see how that stacks up against the more traditional FIE points-based rankings.

How about tomorrow’s comp? Here’s the big table:
World Champs table

As far as Friday goes, my personal suspicion is that an on-form Szilagyi has the edge on Reshetnikov if the two should meet in the semifinal. Szilagyi, however, is likely to face a couple of difficult early matches against the kind of awkward fencers he traditionally has trouble with.  Given the table above, my pick is for a Kim/Szilagyi final, in which Szilagyi will probably have the upper hand given Kim’s recent spate of injuries.

That said, margins in sabre are so small that attempts at casual punditry are unlikely to end well. This is why a true Elo model for 2015 would be so tremendously exciting.

Image: Wikimedia Commons
Image: Wikimedia Commons

The Russians are back just in time for Kazan

The FIE rankings have been updated before World Championships, which starts next week in Kazan, Russia.

After their utter domination of European Championships, where they took 1st, 2nd and 3rd in individual and 2nd in teams after a nail-biting 44/45 loss to Italy, the Russians are back on top, with 412 points giving them a commanding lead over Italy (332) and Korea (328). The won the world team championships in 2013, and are looking pretty unstoppable again this year.

Image: News.Xinhua
Image: News.Xinhua

In individual men’s sabre, Veniamin Reshetnikov has narrowly edged out Jung Hwan Kim of South Korea to take the world #1 ranking, which he had previously held at the end of the 2013 season. The experienced left-hander was also the 2013 World Champion, deafeating team-mate Nikolay Kovalev in a surprise upset in the final in Budapest.

Image: Wikimedia Commons
Image: Wikimedia Commons

Kim lost his position after being elimated in the round of 8 at Asian Championships after being injured in a (frankly highly questionable) bout against Ali Pakdaman (Iran). He now trails Reshetnikov by just 5 points (308 to 303).

Video presented without further comment.

Kim, however, recovered his form three days later in the team event at Asian Championships, putting on a spectacular performance in the final against Japan.

Pretty convincing.

Narrowly behind Kim in 3rd place on the individual rankings is Aron Szilagyi, on 194 points. Both Kim and Szilagyi have fenced Reshetnikov this season, and both defeated him.  I’d be pretty happy to see a rematch of either bout in the finals in Kazan next week.

Moscow 2014: L4: Kim v Reshetnikov

Athens 2014: L4: Szilagyi v Reshetnikov

However, if he’s recovered from his injury scares and is fencing the way he was last weekend in the teams in Suwon City, my money is on Kim to regain his individual #1 spot. The open question is whether he, along with a recently revitalised Gu Bongil, can drag the Koreans over the line to their first team World Championship title.

Image: AP
Image: AP

Whatever the outcome, Kazan is shaping up to be an interesting comp.

So…..about that Evidence Based Hotness Theory…..

Guest post from the team at Hot Fencer Of The Day

Worry not, intrepid seekers of knowledge, data and EBH enlightenment! The last two weeks have involved intense research into various applications of EBH Theory to aspects of the fencing world.
We have been busy formulating a number of hypotheses, including one exploring practical application of external formalisation to the physiognomy of the Sabreur and how this can be interpreted through the application of EBH Theory.

Watch this space

Watch this space…watch it…continue watching it…until I come back.

The Application of “Evidence Based Hotness” Theory

Guest post from the team at Hot Fencer Of The Day

Way back in the day when we were young and there was a war on, and things were different (okay, mostly last weekend… probably more last week if truth be told) there was a percolation of synapses, endorphins, Hibiki and general brain chemistry that led to a Tesla-grade lightbulb-moment of creation; and the Theory of Evidence Based Hotness (EBH), particularly in its application towards competitive and professional athletes, was born. Generally, EBH can be studied from a number of perspectives, including universal perceptions common to all human cultures, cultural and social aspects, and individual subjective preferences. Some physical features are attractive in both men and women, although one contrary report suggests that “absolute flawlessness” with perfect symmetry can be “disturbing”. There are also numerous factors based on gender, as to the application and evaluation of EBH.* So where is this all leading, and how can it possibly be relevant to this blog? Well, I believe the time has come to apply EBH theory on a test group of select athletes; namely Sabreurs…..OK Chit chat over, Hot Sabreur Alert:

Daryl Homer, 23. Mens Sabre, USA

This guys is serious about his sport
This guys is serious about his sport

But is also a seriously happy dude
But is also a seriously happy dude

The flunge, and the socks
The flunge, and the socks

The raw explosive power! Seriously, Dolniceanu is being shoved back by the air Homer is displacing in his lunge....true fact!
The raw explosive power! Seriously, Dolniceanu is being shoved back by the air Homer is displacing in his lunge….true fact!

More Men in suits with swords are required in every day life
He understands that more men in suits with swords are required in every day life

Is very safety conscious and likes to make sure his equipment is sound
He is very safety conscious and likes to make sure his equipment is sound

....Does this one even need a caption...really?
….Does this one even need a caption…really?

I didn't think so either.
I didn’t think so either.


    • Current US ranking – #1
    • Current World Ranking: #12
    • 2012 Olympic Games Placing: 6th
    • What Sells it: The awesome skilz, the socks and the smile
    • On a scale of Hot to Epic, Homer is pretty damn Volcanic (and I dare you not to try and come up with a reason to touch his thighs!!)

*most of this post may have been gratuitously lifted from Wikipedia (hey, if I can’t use Wiki as a reference in an academic paper, it’s perfectly salient to filch from it now), and a little bit of flim flam. This is un-apologetically an excuse to talk about hot athletes, semi-nekkid (rated M), clothed, in action, male or female. I do not choose images that undermine the athletes’ agency, dignity or strength, and I do not present a homogeneous glom of athletes who all fit a cookie cutter mold of “hotness”.

The modern marching attack is beautifully varied

The march in sabre has changed significantly since the introduction of the current cutoff times in 2004. Gone are the days when the attack in sabre meant that you would advance on your opponent expecting to finish with their counterattack. The athleticism and timing of A-grade sabreurs make it difficult, if not impossible, for a marching attacker to react fast enough to a well-timed blade action from the defender.

Over the last 10 years, sabreurs and referees have developed a whole new class of marching attacks. These marches focus on surprising the defender with rapid tempo and distance changes, rather than finishing with the counterattack. Here’s a video summarising the latest range of marching attacks as demonstrated in the 2014 Athens World Cup.