Russia's wheelchair fencers off to winning start in 201422.01.2014
With the absence of the Chinese delegation at the IWAS Wheelchair Fencing World Cup in Malchow, the Russians stepped in as the heavyweights.
Results at the IWAS Wheelchair Fencing Grand Prix taking place in Montreal, Canada, in May (2-5) will provide the next indication of whether the Chinese athletes' dominance is truly under threat.
In the absence of the Chinese athletes, who have recently been in imperious form, the Russian delegation put in a strong team performance, winning more than half of the available titles.
Russia's strength was particularly evident in the men's category A epee discipline, where they took every available podium place in the event. Roman Fedyaev beat compatriot Maxim Shaburov in the final, with Artur Yusupov and Evgeny Pochevalin sharing third place.
The Russian squad's depth in talent also showed in the women's team epee. Their 45-22 win in the final against Belarus was convincing.
Germany's main hope for a title at the event, Simone Briese-Baetke, could not quite make it a dream return to the area where she was born. The German No. 1 lost to Russia's Irina Mishurova in the final of the women's category B epee event before also having to settle for silver with the foil. It was again a Russian, this time Viktoriya Boykova, who proved too strong.
There was a return to winning ways in the women's category A foil category for Hungary's Zsuzanna Krajnyak. The world No. 2 beat France's Delphine Bernard to win her first major title in the event in over a year.
Krajnyak might have made it two wins in Malchow were it not for Yuliya Efimova's stellar performance in the category A epee event. The Russian dropped just two points on her way to the final before defeating Krajnyak 15-9.
Hungary's Richard Osvath also lost in a final, and by just one point. Russian Artur Yusupov made the decisive strike to win the men's category A foil title 15-14. In the category B foil event it was Italy's Marco Cima who won gold, beating France's Maxime Valet, 15-10.
Jovane Silva-Guissone has struggled to replicate the performances that made him Paralympic champion at London 2012. The Brazilian won the men's category B epee event by beating Belarus's Andrei Pranevich.
In the men's category A sabre event, France's star Romain Noble made it two World Cup titles in a row. He added to his gold from July's Warsaw World Cup with victory over countryman Robert Citerne. The two then played a key role as France won the men's sabre team event. Every point counted in a tight contest against Belarus, with the French team emerging with a 45-43 victory.
It now remains to be seen whether Russia can build on this form to challenge China's current supremacy. Results at the IWAS Wheelchair Fencing Grand Prix taking place in Montreal, Canada, in May (2-5) will provide the next indication of whether the Chinese athletes' dominance is truly under threat.