Having had a break from training after the Paralympics, I came into the 2017 competition season hungry for the win and looking forward to a start of a new Paralympic cycle. Tokyo 2020 seemed a distant goal at the beginning of 2017 but the year has gone so fast and already the 2020 games seem just around the corner.
2017's World cup series was to be a quiet one with only five competitions, culminating with the World Championships in November. The season started in February with a World Cup in Eger, Hungary and I was relieved to find that I had not lost too much form and retained some consistency since my break, taking the Bronze medal in Epee and a 5th in Foil.
With an event under my belt and training going well, the next event came around quickly and it was in Pisa, Italy in March that I choose to debut in my new second weapon- Sabre and although I had only started training in this weapon in January, it proved to be a good decision, I had a great event and eventually took the Gold having beaten the current Paralympic Sabre Champion & World No1 Andrii Demchuk UKR 15-9 in the final. This followed up with Epee Gold the next day made the World cup 'Double' and history for GB!
May saw the next World cup hosted in Stadskanaal, The Netherlands for the first time and also my first event sponsored by Leon Paul who came on board as my kit sponsor through to Tokyo 2020 and it was here that I made the podium once more and was thrilled to collect Epee Gold for my team, country and sponsors!
Due to the cancellation of a World Cup in Atlanta, it now meant that the competition in Warsaw, Poland held in July would be the last event before the World Championships in November and Warsaw did not disappoint! It is always a well attended event and this year was no exception. In Epee, I really felt on-form and had a great event, beating nemesis No1 Sun CHN 15-4 in the L16 and then, nemesis No2 Shaburov RUS 15-13 in the L4 to go through to the Final, where victory over Noble FRA 15-4 gave me the win and my third back-to-back Gold of the season!
The World Championships in November was the main focus for the year. I was reassured that what my coach and I were doing was working and so I went into the World Champs in Rome feeling prepared and hungry for the Gold & World championship title. Unfortunately, it was not to be, Despite our best preparations, some things you cannot control, I began to feel unwell and by Epee day I was really struggling and had to settle for Silver. I also took Bronze in Sabre. Although I initially felt gutted to have lost the Epee Final against Shaburov RUS, looking back, I would have done things differently but hindsight is a great thing! The match was going hit-for-hit and mid way through and I went on the defensive, this turned out to be the wrong decision and the Russian took control and closed the match to win 15-12.
On reflection, 2017 was a fantastic year for me. I managed to continue my improvements since the Paralympics and achieved my most successful season yet in Epee. I also started an exciting journey in my new weapon Sabre.
At the start of 2017, Tokyo 2020 felt a long way off and yet now in 2018 with qualification starting at the end of the year, all of a sudden it's not so far away!
2018 brings a much busier season, getting under way in February, with eight events, Europeans in Italy in September and finishing up in Tokyo in December- a fitting way to end the year!
(Photo Augusto Bizzi)