By Mark Etheridge
Fencer Adele Du Plooy this weekend embarks on a mission that will take her to five countriesÔÇª her goal? To nail down a place in Team South Africa at this year’s Olympic Games in London.
Du Plooy is no stranger to the Olympic scene, having been to Beijing in 2008 where South Africa won just a solitary silver medal. On that occasion though she was part of the women’s sabre team, along with Elvira Wood. This time out she’s going solo, although Wood still helps her in training.
Her European trip is all about earning points ÔÇô currently she’s about 10 short of Olympic qualification ÔÇô┬áand quickly.
So it’s off to Europe for the 31-year-old Johannesburg fencer where she’ll take part in four international competitions, including two training camps to keep her form up when she’s not competing.
“To start earning points you need a top 64 ranking in the international competitions,” explained Du Plooy on the eve of her departure. “If you win your fight you move up to the top 32 and so forth. For each round you get a number of points and the higher you rank out after the competition the more points you get, so top 64 will give you two points, top 32 4-8 points etc.”
Du Plooy realises she needs to perform in these four competitions, hopefully getting a few top 32 results en route.
“As far as Olympics goes, the top 12 in the world already have a pass in, then each different zone can qualify an additional three but only a maximum of two per country. Obviously we fall in the African zone where one of the Tunisian girls is already in the top 12 so she qualifies automatically. That leaves the Africa zone with three places and right now there’s one Tunisian and two Egyptians in front of me on the points list.”
Should Du Plooy, a product of Roodepoort High School in Gauteng, fail to overtake her rivals during her European mission she still has the Africa qualifier event where she can seal a spot.
Her European schedule looks like this: “I’m leaving on Saturday [28 January] to Germany on a training camp, then I’m be off to Orleans (France) for my first┬átournament 10 & 11 Feb, then straight to London again for a training camp and another tournament on 24 & 25 February. I will then come back to┬áSouth Africa for a week then off to┬áTurkey on 9-10 March for a competition and then straight to Moscow for the last one on 16-17 March.┬áHopefully by that┬átime I would have qualified.”
In fencing terms Du Plooy realises she’s a late starter. “I was 18, going on 19 when I started fencing. Internationally its more ideal to start fencing from a very young age. I started fencing with the epee, then included foil and only three years later the sabre which I enjoy most.”
She’s represented South Africa in all three disciplines internationally and has been senior national champion on seven occasions since she took up the sport.
It’s also been for seven years that she’s been with her coach, Dr Genna Tyshler, the same coach who took our fencers to the Beijing Olympics.
Should be come through the tough qualifying path and make her second Games, there’s no doubting that this University of Johannesburg sports psychologist will be in seventh heaven.