Warsaw World Cup last test before Worlds

Fourth stop on wheelchair fencing circuit also has Tokyo 2020 implications

Man in wheelchair holds up arms celebrating Adrian Castro is among the local stars at the Warsaw World Cup © • NPC Poland

Wheelchair fencers from around the world will be in Warsaw, Poland, from Thursday for the final Wheelchair Fencing World Cup before the 2019 World Championships.

The competition is a traditional stop on the calendar, but this year will allow athletes the chance to fine-tune their preparations for the Worlds in Cheongju, South Korea, from 17-23 September. It also offers qualification points for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.

Two Polish fencers will star in the men’s sabre category B.

Grzegorz Pluta has achieved the most success so far this year, opening the season with two wins. However he dropped to third at the last World Cup edition in Sao Paulo. In doing so, Pluta opened the door for compatriot and European champion Adrian Castro to take victory.

France’s Marc Andre Cratere also took his first sabre medal since 2015 in Sao Paulo.

Kamil Rzasa will aim to build on his great start to a season in the men’s epee category B.

The 34-year-old claimed his first win in the weapon since 2014 at the World Cup in Pisa, Italy, in March.

However, a tough field awaits Rzasa.

British world champion and world No.1 Dimitri Coutya has made it onto the podium at every World Cup this year, including his first gold in Sao Paulo. Coutya may be peaking just in time to defend his world title.

Refugee athlete debut

Iraq’s Paralympic silver medallist Ammar Ali is also in the frame for a top three finish.

Ali shone on his season debut at the World Cup in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates, with bronze in February and will appear on the piste for the second time this year.

Another home athlete, Worlds bronze medallist Jacek Gaworski, will aim to make it onto the podium for the first time in 2019 in the men’s foil category B.

Gaworski, who is a European silver medal winner, has competed at all three World Cups this year but a medal has eluded him.

Coutya will likely factor here too, once again as the reigning world champion. China’s Yanke Feng is the Paralympic title holder and in the hunt for his first win of 2019 at this level.

In the men’s foil category C, Russia’s Alexander Logutenko returns as the world and European title holder.

Wisam Sami will make his international debut as an independent athlete in the men’s sabre category A.

A refugee from Iraq, Wisam found a new life in Greece and has been supported by the Hellenic Paralympic Committee and the Agitos Foundation through the Grant Support Programme (GSP).

Women’s field

Poland’s interests will be represented by 28-year-old Marta Fidrych in the sabre and epee category A.

A bronze medallist from the 2015 World Championships and a former European champion in the epee, Fidrych will have to overcome defending title holders: China’s Paralympic gold medallist Xufeng Zou and Hungary’s world champion Zsuzsanna Krajnyak.

Fidrych will face another challenging group of athletes in the sabre, especially with Ukraine’s world and European champion Natalia Morkvych.

Fidrych’s 24-year-old teammate Kinga Drozdz also won her first sabre World Cup gold this year.

In the women’s sabre category B, Georgia’s Irma Khetsuriani is going for her eighth consecutive World Cup win. The world champion has not lost a gold medal match in over a year. The last time was in Pisa in March 2018 when she was knocked out of contention by Germany’s Sylvi Tauber.

Three World Cups in Sharjah, Pisa and Sao Paulo have so far taken place this year, offering fencers the chance to secure qualification points for Tokyo 2020.

After Cheongju the World Cup season will climax in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, from 14-17 November.