Our fencers have been left sitting on a virtual fence and relegated to a supporting role at the London Olympics later this year, writes Mark Etheridge.
Despite their best efforts, no South African fencer managed to come through the qualifying route.
This despite campaigning both in Europe and at the African Zone qualifying tournament in Casablanca, Morocco last week.
Both Given Maduma and Adele du Plooy reached the finals but failed to win, while Jacques Viljoen lost in the semi-final.
Then our women’s epee team finalised the qualifying cycle as the best ranked team in Africa but unfortunately with 100 ranking points that saw them ranked 18th in the world, not high enough to gain a Games spot as per FIE criteria. Instead the Hong Kong team will head to London.
Du Plooy had embarked on a hectic European schedule to try and garner enough points to make the team for London. She competed at four tournaments in Europe before heading for the continental qualifier.
She took time out to explain to Road to London 2012 how her qualifying bid went.
“My first tournament in Orleans, France didn’t go well and I lost in the first round. The next competition went much better and I beat a British girl 5-0 and then lost my next two rounds narrowly, 5-4 and 5-3.
“I went through to the next round and lost to a girl from Kazakhstan.”
She then moved on to Turkey where she said her results were pretty similar. “I beat a Turkish girl 5-0 and then lost 5-4 and 5-3 in my other pool match-ups. It was also like that in Russia. The competition was very tough and it was all great competition experience. I had to go overseas to improve my skills because fencing in South Africa is such a small sport and our standard is often not so high, although we do have some very good coaches.
“I guess its like so many other codes. The more you take part at a higher level and against a variety of opponents, the better you get.”
Du Plooy then joined the team in Casablanca. “I won my semi-final 15-14 after being 11-14 down! But then I lost the final to an Algerian girl.
“The qualifying opportunities are now gone and unfortunately I couldn’t get it together to qualify.”
But Du Plooy was nevertheless gracious in defeat. “I appreciated the chances I got and must say thank you to the Lotto and Fencing South Africa for their support. I believe that all the experience I gained during this time won’t be in vain or lost. I’m definitely planning to put back all I’ve learnt to help our next generation of fencers.”