Novosjolov Nails It – World Combat Games Men’s Epee Final
Epee fanatics around the world were treated to a pre-season spectacle in Russia thanks to the World Combat Games hosted by SportAccord. The World Combat games consists of 15 combat sports including fencing. Fifteen of the most fantastic fencers from around the world competed in the men’s senior epee event. The Senior World Cup circuit for fencing concluded in August with the World Championships and doesn’t recommence until January, so having the opportunity to watch the best in the world compete in the pre-season is a huge bonus!
Putting on a show for us in the finals were two-time World Champion Nikolai Novosjolov from Estonia, and Hungary’s Gabor Boczko. Novosjolov beat out a frustrated Swiss fencer, Fabian Kauter, in the semi-finals to secure his chance at gold by a score of 15-10. Boczko edged out a tight victory over France’s Ulrich Robeiri 15-13 to fill the last spot in the finals. Novosjolov is a very strong and accurate fencer who uses his excellent sense of distance and timing to score surprising attacks against his opponents. Boczko typically utilizes his uncanny ability to score hits to the hand and counter-attacks to win his matches. On paper, we had the makings for an exciting, action-packed match between the Estonian and the Hungarian.
Novosjolov and Boczko have fenced each other many times before so there wasn’t much of a feeling out process when the match began. A mere 19 seconds into the action Novosjolov scored the first touch of the bout with a hit to the underside of Boczko’s wrist. The fencers then rallied for piste control before Novosjolov set up a fleche attack by feinting to the underside of Boczko’s wrist and exploding forward. Boczko seemed a little surprised by the action, but he was able to counter-attack to score a double touch. It was clear to see that Novosjolov had already found his distance and his fencing began to loosen up. The fencers maneuvered effortlessly, each trying to pick off their opponent’s hand from a far distance. On one of Boczko’s attempts at a hand hit, Novosjolov was able to parry with a counter-six and flick Boczko’s wrist as Boczko searched for Novosjolov’s blade. Down 3-1, Boczko changed his tactics and lengthened the distance, trying to keep Novosjolov further away. It appeared as if Boczko was looking to attack as Novosjolov moved forward. Boczko saw his opportunity to attack, but he missed his target leaving Novosjolov with an easy touch. Novosjolov looked to use the momentum he had earned from his early lead and he attempted to recreate his first touch, an attack to the underside of Boczko’s wrist. Seven seconds into the action Novosjolov attempted this underside hit but missed, so he renewed his attack to Boczko’s body. Boczko met Novosjolov with a counter-attack to score a double, which brought the score to 5-2 for Novosjolov. Again, Novosjolov came out of the gates eager to score before the period end. He advanced closer to Boczko, Boczko saw his opportunity to attack but Novosjolov anticipated the attack and scored with a beautiful flick to Boczko’s wrist. With only 13 seconds left in the first period and up 6-2 Novosjolov advanced forward with intentions of taking another risk before Boczko could regroup at the period break. Boczko did not back down, in fact he came forward searching for Novosjolov’s blade, but the always-ready Estonian parried the Hungarian’s blade with a counter-six before finishing his riposte to the chest. Both fencers let the remaining four seconds of the first period tick, ending the period at 7-2 in Novosjolov’s favour.
The fencers’ body language told the tale of the match during the period break. Novosjolov looked calm, relaxed and confident while he sat on a chair and drank from his water. Boczko seemed agitated while he paced around, attempting to come up with a game plan to take control of the match. After the minute break both fencers seemed focused and ready to employ their tactics. Since Novosjolov was having success in multiple areas, it wasn’t expected that he would change his tactics unless Boczko was able to present some new threats. Novosjolov scored every time he initiated, so Boczko had to be very aware of the ever-present possibility of a quick attack.
The second period began slower than the first, both fencers were hoping to manipulate their opponent into going off balance before attacking. Boczko seemed like he had confidence in his movements as he was more persistent in the pressure he applied to Novosjolov. Boczko moved forward with a feint, attempting to draw out an attack from Novosjolov but Novosjolov stayed calm enough under the pressure to duck and score a hit when Boczko was too close. Novosjolov didn’t waste any time trying to score his next hit. He attempted a flick to Boczko’s wrist but Boczko showed why he is such a dangerous fencer and counter-attacked onto Novosjolov’s hand. That touch was Boczko’s first single touch of the match and it helped him tighten the gap of the score to 8-3. It appeared that both fencers were trying to land attacks to the wrist and arm and they were not eager to launch deep attacks to the body. Novosjolov regained full control over the match with a flick to Boczko’s arm as Boczko extended forward. Boczko, not happy with the way the bout was going, decided to initiate an attack but Novosjolov maintained perfect composure and hit Boczko in the preparation of the attack. With a commanding lead of 10-3, Novosjolov had a lot of room to take risks and inch closer to winning the gold medal. Novosjolov pressed forward and unleashed a beautiful beat attack, lunging to Boczko’s leg. Boczko, however, displaced his body and scored his second single touch of the match on a magnificent counter-attack. Boczko came forward off the line and was looking for a second intention attack. Boczko feinted, successfully drawing Novosjolov’s attack which Boczko parried but Novosjolov drove through the parry and scored his 11th touch of the match. A frustrated Boczko advanced forward chasing his Estonian opponent but was caught off guard by a lovely change-of-direction fleche attack. With a minute left in the second period, neither fencer was looking to commit. The second period ended 12-4 for the reigning World Champion.
The second period break looked nearly identical to the first period break. Novosjolov sat down looking stoic as always, while Boczko paced and revisited his tactics. Boczko had an incredible lead to come back from, so he needed to analyze what was working and dig deep to execute his plan.
The first hit of the third period was scored only six seconds into the action. Novosjolov attacked and was counter-attacked by Boczko, resulting in a double touch. Novosjolov looked completely confident. There was no rallying for position in the next action, Boczko attacked but Novosjolov defended with his patented counter-six riposte to come within one final touch to win the competition. In a show of respect and sportsmanship, Boczko conceded the last touch by walking forward with his arm half extended. Novosjolov walked forward as well and both fencers scored to finish the match at 15-6. Novosjolov shook Boczko’s hand and saluted the supportive crowd who cheered loudly for the World Combat Games Men’s Epee Champion!
Even though this tournament had no effect on the overall FIE rankings, it was very competitive and was taken seriously. The best in the world were able to showcase their skills and increase exposure for our incredible and unique sport. Congratulations to Nikolai Novosjolov of Estonia for putting on a dominant performance throughout the entire day and reminding us why he is the World Champion.