Wheelchair fencer Piers Gilliver has seen his new training programme at the University of Bath pay immediate dividends as he won another epee gold medal at the World Cup in Pisa, Italy.
It was a fourth success in five tournaments for the 20-year-old, who is ranked number one in the world in the qualifying standings for the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.
“I am really thrilled – there is nothing like the feeling of winning gold,” he said.
Gilliver, who also finished fifth in the foil competition in Pisa, has recently started training full-time at the University of Bath after receiving funding from UK Sport’s World Class Programme.
He has been recognised as a Podium level athlete, which means he is seen as having a realistic possibility of winning a medal at Rio 2016.
And he demonstrated just why that is the case with a dominant performance in Italy, winning all of his epee bouts on the way to his latest gold.
After topping Poule 4, Gilliver was given a bye through the last 64 stage before recording 15-6 victories over Leo Curtis of the US and Poland’s Norbert Calka.
A 15-7 win over China’s Xuefeng Liu set then set up a semi-final showdown with current world number two Roman Fedyaev of Russia, which Gilliver won 15-11.
Experienced Frenchman Romain Noble – silver-medallist at the London 2012 Paralympic Games – provided further tough opposition in the final but Gilliver fenced superbly to record an 11-6 victory.
“It was definitely not an easy route to gold,” said Gilliver. “Roman and Romain are the kind of people I would watch a couple of years ago and never expect to get to their level.”
Gilliver used to train a couple of times a week with Bath Sword Club but, since receiving individual funding from UK Sport at the start of the year, now has sessions from Monday to Thursday at the Sports Training Village.
He also trains with the Pentathlon GB athletes and University of Bath Fencing Team, who recently enjoyed success when Sport & Exercise Student Tom Edwards won epee gold at the Beazley British Championships.
“I have only been at the University of Bath for a couple of months but I can really feel myself improving day in, day out,” added Gilliver, whose lead coach is Baldip Sahota.
“Bath Sword Club is one of the best around and the standard of fencing at the University is getting stronger all the time. The more success we have, the more it will draw other people here and hopefully it will become a hub for fencing in the South West.”
Gilliver also contested the foil competition in Italy, topping his qualifying group with six wins from six.
He then breezed past Iraqi duo Hayder Al-Ogaili and Hasan Zainulabdeen, dropping just five points, before losing 15-11 to Hong Kong’s Meng Chai Cheong in the quarter-finals.
There are three World Cup competitions remaining this year, with the next taking place in Warsaw, Poland on July 1.
That means a return to the scene where Gilliver made history back in September by becoming the first British wheelchair fencer to win a Grand Prix event.
However, the big target is September’s World Championships in Eger, Hungary, where the victor will earn automatic qualification for the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.
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