Fantastic Finish for the Friendly Frenchman

The 2014 World Championships were held in Kazan, Russia from the 15th to the 23rd of July. The Senior Men’s Epee final match was between Kyoungdoo Park and Ulrich Robeiri who fence for Korea and France, respectively.

Both fencers had a very tough road in the quarter, and semi-finals. Park eliminated Ukraine’s Bogdan Nikishin 15-13, and Park dispatched of Italy’s Enrico Garozzo 15-10 to secure his spot fencing for gold. Robeiri fenced to a victory against Anton Avdeev from Russia 14-13 before defeating teammate and compatriot, Gauthier Grumier, by a score of 15-11.

Kyoungdoo Park is an exciting fencer to watch. Park brings a very high intensity and work ethic to all of his matches. He is shockingly fast with his attacks and he is extremely strong on the blade. His game mostly revolves around setting up change of direction attacks and compound attacks from a long distance.

France’s Ulrich Robeiri fences a simple and disciplined game. Robeiri has an expert sense of timing and distance and he uses his long reach and pinpoint accuracy to score impossible counter-attacks. Robeiri is also known for pronating his hand on his fleche attacks, which makes it notably harder to parry his attack. Robeiri compliments his extremely dominant defensive play with a mixture of direct attacks and second-intention actions that make it very difficult to predict what action Robeiri is committing to. Stylistically, Park and Robeiri clash quite well together and I feel we were treated to a very good match that decided the 2014 World Champion.

 

First Period

The match started off slowly with both Robeiri and Park working to get comfortable with each other’s footwork and tempo. The action moved into Park’s territory due to Robeiri’s forward pressure. The distance between the two competitors inched closer until Park found a distance he liked and launched an explosive binding fleche to score the first point of the match. Robeiri decided to lengthen the distance so if Park were to fleche again, it would be done from a safer location and it would give Robeiri an opportunity for a counter-attack. It was obvious that Robeiri was aware of how dangerous Park’s speed was going to be. From the longer distance, Robeiri prepared a flicking attack to Park’s body but Park was able to retreat with a parry of his own and then burst forward with a fleche. Park looked very comfortable scoring his second point of the match. Shortly after Park attempted a long attack with an octave beat to Robeiri’s foot, but Robeiri had quickly dodged the toe shot by withdrawing his foot. Park attempted an immediate fleche upon recovering from the foot shot, but Robeiri was ready for it and scored with a gorgeous touch on Park’s arm.

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Robeiri appeared to be in control of the footwork and comfortable with pushing Park on the strip. Robeiri attempted an attack to Park’s chest, but Park parried the attack and launched forward with a fleche, Robeiri was able to dodge Park’s tip long enough for his own tip to land and secure a double touch. Park was disappointed that his beautiful attack resulted in a double and not a single touch. Down 3-2, Robeiri was looking to tie the match up before heading into the first period break. Robeiri brought the action to his Korean opponent by pressing forward and beating Park’s blade out of the way. Every time Robeiri would beat Park’s blade, Park would take a small step backwards and a short hop forward which told Robeiri that Park was looking to quickly close the distance if Robeiri fell short on an attack or if Robeiri’s preparation became sloppy. The Frenchman must’ve felt confident in his speed and preparation because instead of extending his arm to beat Park’s blade, he extended his arm and launched a lightning quick fleche. Park tried to counter-attack, but he wasn’t expecting a fleche and the result was a single touch for Robeiri to level the score. Both fencers were content with finishing the first period tied at three hits each.

 

Second Period

The second period started slower than the first. Robeiri was quick to take over control of the piste and move the action into Park’s end. Robeiri used a variety of small extensions to cloak his true intentions of launching a direct attack, but Park was patient and ready. After a couple more subtle feints Robeiri quickly drove a direct lunge at Park, but Park calmly parried Robeiri’s blade and immediately followed up with a scoring flick to the top side of Robeiri’s arm. With the single touch being awarded to Park, he pulled ahead in the scoring race at 4-3. Park took control of the footwork, backing Robeiri into the warning zone before initiating an advancing lunge with a beat-flick to Robeiri’s arm. Unfortunately for Park, Robeiri was able to block out the flick and score with a counter-attack to tie the score at 4-4. Unsuccessful in pressuring Robeiri, Park decided to pull his opponent near his own end and fight from there. Being patient and waiting for Robeiri’s attack to come had already worked out in Park’s favour once in this period and twice in the first period. Taking a risk Robeiri attempted a fleche attack, but the moment his blade was extended, Park used a technically beautiful binding parry from quarte to stop Robeiri’s attack and score on a riposte to once again take the lead.

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With the lead in hand, Park again took the action to Robeiri’s end and again the result was a single light for Robeiri. In this particular action, Robeiri had lost balance on the side of the strip and Park tried to take advantage of the situation, but Robeiri used his long reach and scored a single touch before falling off the side of the piste. I’m not sure if Park realized he was only scoring touches in his own end, but he backed off at the start of the next action, allowing Robeiri to take the footwork lead if the Frenchman would be so inclined. The two fencers opened and closed the distance but it was quite clear that Robeiri wanted to pull Park into his own territory, but Park was hesitant to take the fight there. Robeiri was successful in pulling Park forward, so Robeiri set up an attack that was timed to hit Park in Park’s forward step. Unfortunately for Robeiri, Park was able to score a single touch with a perfectly placed counter-attack to the shoulder. With under a minute left in the second period, neither fencer was willing to commit to another attack so the second period ended 6-5 in Park’s favour.

 

Third Period

A minute and a half passed in the third period before any action occurred. Robeiri had pushed the action into Park’s end before doing a short lunge accompanied with a disengage to evade Park’s parry, then compressing his tip on Park’s leg to tie the match at six hits apiece. Previously in this match, every time Robeiri attempted an attack Park would react with a parry-riposte. Robeiri’s disengage perfectly exploited Park’s tendency to parry and Robeiri was easily able to hit Park’s unprotected target.

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In an effort to quickly regain the lead Park offered a high-line extension to Robeiri, eagerly awaiting a reaction from Robeiri. Robeiri did not respond to the invitation, so Park exploded forward with an octave bind hoping to surprise Robeiri. Whether or not Robeiri was surprised was irrelevant because he was fast enough with his counter-attack to score a single touch and take his first lead of the match at 7-6. At that point in the match, Robeiri was very successful with counter-attacks and in his back pocket he was holding onto a short lunge with a disengage if he had to attack. Robeiri was weakest when he attacked, giving up touches every time except for his 6th touch where he scored by disengaging Park’s parry. The key to victory for Robeiri would be to wait for Park’s inevitable attack and initiate nothing on his own. If Park were to take the lead, Robeiri would be able to rely on his disengaging attack to score, which would provide Robeiri with an effective safety net if the counter-attacks stopped working. Park faced a much more difficult situation in that his strength for the match was in his ability to score on parry-riposte actions, and Robeiri had no reason to risk the lead and attack. Park knew that Robeiri would simply counter-attack, so his options were to either get close enough that he could score with a direct attack before Robeiri could react, explode forward with multiple actions on the blade so Robeiri would have difficulty finding an opening for his point, or use second-intention tactics like a body feint to provoke Robeiri’s attack and meeting that attack with a parry-riposte. Of those options, a simple direct attack and second-intention actions would have a lower chance of scoring because of Robeiri’s long reach and incredible timing on his counter-attack, and because Robeiri would have no reason to bite on a second-intention invitation. Enough speculation, back to the action.

 

Park pressured forward looking for an opening for a direct attack, Park found his opening and lunged into Robeiri’s advancing footwork. Park’s tip sailed above his target and flew behind Robeiri. Robeiri tried to counter-attack, he missed on his initial attempt but he was able to secure the touch over Park’s back. Down two points with only two minutes to go in the final period, Park needed to make a change. Park pressured Robeiri with invitational feints to the leg and hand, but Robeiri didn’t respond to any of the traps Park laid out. Eventually Robeiri was cornered with only one foot in the warning zone, so with nowhere to go Park exploded forward with a direct fleche. Robeiri was able to parry the blade in prime but in an attempt to score on the riposte he hit his own leg instead of his opponent. In a show of great sportsmanship, Robeiri waved the point off saying that it shouldn’t count because he hit himself.

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Park was appreciative of Robeiri’s honesty, but not enough to let Robeiri off the hook. Only four seconds later Park launched an awesome advance lunge to the leg of Robeiri. Robeiri was caught surprised and was unable to land his counter-attack. Down by only a point, Park continued with the forward pressure looking to inch closer and closer to Robeiri. Park was more active with his bladework as he tried to disrupt Robeiri’s comfort level and provoke a counter-attack. Park made a short lunge to elicit a reaction, to which Robeiri threw out a counter-attack. Park maintained distance to keep his opponent’s tip safely away from his own body before reaching to place a touch on Robeiri’s leg. The score was 8-8 with only 50 seconds left to determine the 2014 World Champion in Men’s Epee. Park continued forcing Robeiri back, but he relinquished pressure and retreated to regroup. Robeiri wasted no time in taking advantage of Park relaxing, as he marched down the piste and scored a single touch to take the lead 9-8. The pressure was on Park to take a risk and reel in another tying point and he only had 30 seconds to accomplish the task. Park forced Robeiri back with a high intensity, but Robeiri was calm and confident. In Park’s effort to force Robeiri to attack, he took one step too close and Robeiri capitalized on the mistake instantly.

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Robeiri held a commanding lead of 10-8 with only seven seconds remaining. Park had no choice but to go for broke and charge the Frenchman. Park sprinted at Robeiri off the line and a double touch was scored. Robeiri noticed no time had been taken off the clock and a timekeeper was brought in to ensure the time ran out in a realistic fashion. Park continued with his sprinting tactic and was never once met with a single light. In an unbelievable three seconds, a total of four double touches and one single touch for Robeiri were scored. Robeiri kept Park at bay, and was rewarded by being crowned the 2014 Men’s Epee World Champion!

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Congratulations to France’s Ulrich Robeiri for fencing an incredible tournament all the way through to the final match. Robeiri showed consistent point control, perfect timing, and sportsmanship. Congratulations to Kyoungdoo Park from Korea for putting on an excellent display of athleticism and speed on his way to a silver medal performance. The performance put on by both fencers in the final match was inspiring. The mutual respect between Park and Robeiri was great to see, and the sportsmanship on Robeiri’s part was enough to make him a champion in my books.

/leland

 

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