Minobe and Popescu shine to take gold at Westend Epee Grand Prix in Budapest
Japan’s Kazuyasu Minobe and Romania’s Ana Maria Popescu stole the limelight from the favourites by winning the gold medals at the 2019 International Fencing Federation (FIE) Budapest Westend Epee Grand Prix in Romania.
Minobe beat Italy’s Andrea Santarelli to clinch the men’s individual epee competition, whilst Popescu was a comfortable winner over Korea’s Young Mi Kang in the women’s equivalent.
More than 575 fencers made their way to the Romanian capital to compete in this the fourth fencing competition of the FIE’s 2018-2019 season nine-event Grand prix series. Budapest’s BOK Hall (formerly the SYMA Hall) was the venue for the two day event which saw plenty of shocks along the way in both competitions.
In the men’s individual epee, Minobe claimed his first Grand Prix gold after beating Italy’s Andrea Santarelli in the final, winning with a 15-12 score.
Minobe did it the hard way as he overcame stiff resistance from two Hungarians to make the gold medal decider. First there was a narrow 10-9 success over Andras Redli in the quarter-finals before a 15-9 decision over Tibor Andrasfi in the semi-finals.
However the Japanese fencer’s biggest scalp perhaps came before that at the last 16 stage when he accounted for France’s world champion Yannick Borel 15-7; this after Borel had previously ousted Italian two-time world champion Paolo Pizzo in the previous round of 32 stage, winning 15-9.
Santarelli’s path to the Final and silver medal saw him beat Switzerland’s Max Heinzer in the semi-final, 15-10.
One of the tournament favourites, Korea’s Olympic gold medallist Sangyoung Park was defeated in the round of 16 by Russia’s Pavel Sukhov, 15-7; Sukhov was then eliminated in the quarter-finals by Andrasfi, 15-8.
In the women’s individual epee final, Popescu took-on Korea’s Young Mi Kang and eased to victory in the gold-medal match thanks to a 15-7 scoreline.
The semi-finals had seen Olympic silver medallist Popescu defeat another Korean, Injeong Choi, 13-11, whilst Kang booked her final spot by beating France’s Coraline Vitalis, 15-13.
There were some dramatic encounters earlier in the competition with several of the anticipated leading contenders falling at the round of 32 stage. Two-time Italian world champion Rossella Fiamingo went out to China’s Mingye Zhu, 15-8; Estonia’s world champion, Julia Beljajeva was defeated in the same round by Zhu’s teammate, Sheng Lin, by a crushing 15-3 scoreline; which was the same outcome for Russia’s world champion Lyubov Shutova who lost to Vitalis.
The next FIE Grand Prix is this coming weekend with the Absolute Fencing Gear FIE Men’s and Women’s Foil Grand Prix in Anaheim, California, USA, from 15 to 17 March.