German Fencing Federation hopes for success at World Cup in Budapest
For sports fans in Hungary, these are true holidays right now. The World Swimming and Fencing Championships will start simultaneously this week - two disciplines that are part of the Hungarian Sports DNA. The fencing world championship even takes place at home in Budapest, with a more specialized audience than the Hungarian athletes on the planche can search for a long time.
Swimming and fencing - these were also German parade sports. If you start by listing successful German fencers and fencers, you are busy for a while and then you are far from finished. Alexander Pusch, Mathias Behr, Elmar Borrmann, Britta Heidemann, Anja Fichtel, Conny Hanisch, Zita Funkenhauser, Sabine Bau, Imke Duplitzer. A certain Thomas Bach is also in this series.
Bach has now risen to become the highest sports official in the world, since 2013 he is President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). The German fencers, on the other hand, are only beginning to orient themselves laboriously towards the top of the world. They have been through hard years, with the low point of the World Cup a year ago, when they returned from China without any medals. That had last happened in 1971. Added to this were the allegations of abuse at the flagship Tauberbischofsheim, where for decades emerged Olympic champion and world champion. Tauberbischofsheim has meanwhile got rid of its status as Olympic training center.
Leading character Max Hartung
Wonderful things are not to be expected in Budapest from the 24-person squad of the German Fencing Association, but the European Championships in Dusseldorf in June has at least worked as a lighter mood brightener. The saber fencers led by Max Hartung won team gold for the European Championship, the foil fencers won the silver medal in the team, and there was single bronze for Hartung and the experienced sculler Alexandra Ndolo.
Ndolo and Hartung are also the hopefuls of the German Fencing Federation in Budapest - they will probably have to tear it out too, others were already on the first day of competition on Monday. Team European champion Matyas Szabo retired in the qualifier for the saber competition, as did the three dagger colleagues of Ndolo Beate Christmann, Ricarda Multerer and Alexandra Ehler.
The fact that the competition in a World Cup is higher than in European title fights, is a truism: Szabo failed because of a fencer from Hong Kong, Christmann to Eliana Lugo from Venezuela. Fencing may have its home in Europe's sporty traditions, in France, Hungary, Italy, Germany, but nowadays it is also fought successfully in Cuba, China, Korea, the USA and Belarus. Fencing has long become a global sport, which makes the competition even denser.
"Tense but hopeful"
"We were hoping for more," said women's national coach Dominik Csobo the first day of competition, previously had sports director Sven Ressel the atmosphere in the German camp still as "tense but hopeful" called. Two adjectives that mirror the balancing act in German fencing. There are again some outstanding talents like Leonie Ebert in the foil, Hartung and his saber boys are always good for front places, but it's a long and arduous way back into the limelight. Association President Claudia Bokel speaks of a ten-year plan to bring the German fencing again internationally to the front. And that is probably still small-scale thought.
The sport was always in the niche, even though it flourished there for years. Television usually goes around the plane, fencing is still a rather bulky spectator sport, despite all the visual aids that have been introduced over the years. Sometimes it is only by the emotional discharge of the athletes to see if and who has been hit. One of the sports that exhale almost traditionally tradition, the quiet in the hall, the darkness in the audience, the elegant white of the fencing suits, the sound of footsteps, the clash of weapons clashing. A sport like a play. That's what makes the charm, but at times it also seems to have fallen out of time.
The World Cup in Budapest is therefore also trend-setting for a German sport in upheaval. In Budapest will make important preliminary decisions for the Olympic qualification, the summer games are still the main window for the fencers. In Rio 2016, they experienced a disaster, there were already only four German starters arrived, on the podium stood in the end other. However, if the teams in the saber and foil are now able to confirm their successes from the home European championship in Budapest, then that would also be extremely important for the Games 2020 in Tokyo, because then the fencers of the teams that make the Olympic qualifiers, too in the individual in Tokyo eligible. The more individual seats at the Olympics, the more TV presence. The more public attention.
At the European Championships in Dusseldorf, Bokel said colleagues from other associations had vowed to her that Germany was "back in fencing," said the president. Whether this was just a courtesy phrase of well-trained officials will be seen this week.