Wheelchair fencing world champ Piers Gilliver happy to be back in training at Team Bath with one year to rescheduled Tokyo Paralympic Games
With one year to go until the rescheduled Tokyo Paralympic Games, wheelchair fencing medal contender Piers Gilliver says he has put the disappointment of the delay behind him and has been able to “reset psychologically”.
The Rio 2016 silver-medallist and his team-mates on the EiS World-Class Wheelchair Fencing Programme are back in training at the Team Bath Sports Training Village as they start to rebuild towards the Tokyo Games, which had been due to start tomorrow (Tuesday) but will now take place from August 24 to September 5, 2021.
Gilliver has been in exceptional form during the past four years, winning the Category A epee World Championship in 2019 and a host of gold medals on the IWASF World Cup circuit, including the last one to be contested in Hungary just weeks before lockdown and the Games’ postponement due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
He admits that was a difficult time but says he has been able to take the positives from the delay and is feeling refocussed and recharged as he restarts the one-year countdown.
“The start of lockdown was very stressful because the Games had not been officially postponed at that point and the worry was we would be unprepared compared to other countries,” said Gilliver, who is coached by Peter Rome.
“It was good when the decision was finally made but still difficult because I’d just won the World Cup in Hungary and was feeling in good form, preparations were going well – and then the Games were off.
“I’ve been able to process all that now and reset psychologically. The Paralympic cycle is a long haul, four years where the pressure builds and builds, so in some ways it has been good to be able to switch off and reset before working really hard again for the next year.
“It’s great to be back at the Sports Training Village and have access to all the key things we need again, like the pistes and equipment. It’s particularly good to be back with my training partners – we were able to keep fit physically during lockdown but performance-specific things like working though tactics aren’t something you can do on your own.
“We’ve been back in training for about four weeks now. We took it easy to start with but have gradually built back up to a full week of training sessions. Going back was quite easy in the end. I wondered what it would be like with things like temperature checks and social distancing but we’ve settled back into the routine quickly and feel comfortable.”
For Gilliver and fellow World Champion Dimitri Coutya, who is also based at the STV, the focus for the next few weeks is training before a possible return to international competition later in the year.
“There is a World Cup planned for Pisa in Italy in November that we are working towards,” he said. “Then we have a World Cup in Sao Paulo next year before the European Championships a bit closer to home in Hatfield. It’s good to have competitions to work towards again and I’m excited for the year ahead.”
Here’s a look behind the scenes at the EiS World-Class Wheelchair Fencing programme, which was filmed at the Team Bath Sports Training Village in February…