Tokyo 2020: Piers Gilliver strikes gold and Dimitri Coutya takes bronze as University of Bath-based wheelchair fencers claim epee medals

26 August 2021

Wheelchair fencer Piers Gilliver was crowned as Paralympic Champion and training partner Dimitri Coutya won bronze as the duo claimed the first medals of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games for University of Bath-based sportspeople.

Gilliver bounced back from his early exit in Wednesday’s sabre competition to totally dominate the Category A epee event, winning all of his preliminary pool bouts and conceding just eight hits in the quarter- and semi-finals.

Piers Gilliver celebrates his gold-medal success. CREDIT: imagecomms

He continued that fantastic form into the final to beat Maxim Shaburov of the Russian Paralympic Committee 15-9 and take the gold medal, going one better than the epee silver he won at Rio 2016. Gilliver had avenged that defeat from five years ago in the semi-finals as he beat China’s Gang Sun 15-6 in a repeat of the 2016 final.

It was a first wheelchair fencing title for ParalympicsGB since 1988 as Gilliver became the fifth University-based sportsperson to be crowned as Paralympic Champion, joining swimmers Sascha Kindred, Matt Walker and Stephanie Millward, and athlete Paul Blake in the roll of honour.

“I’m a little overwhelmed but very happy,” said Gilliver. “Maxim has been a huge rival of mine for years, so I just focused on my own game plan and executed it as best I could.

“The small things have been really important in my preparation over the last five years. I have been meticulous in my training. Despite all the difficulties we have all faced I made sure I came here as best prepared as I could.”

Dimitri Coutya roars with delight after winning Category B epee bronze. PICTURES: imagecomms

Coutya, who is also coached at the Team Bath Sports Training Village by Peter Rome with the EIS World-Class Wheelchair Fencing Programme, narrowly missed out on a place in the Category B epee final as he was edged out 15-12 by Brazil’s Jovane Guissone.

However, Coutya ensured he would deservedly be on the Paralympic podium for the first time in his career by beating Andrei Pranevich of Belarus 15-11 in the bronze-medal match.

“I’m a little disappointed not to make my first Paralympic final but it feels wonderful to win a medal for Great Britain,” said Coutya. “The field is really strong with a lot of great opponents. Pranevic is the defending champion – I had to dig deep and I am so glad that I was able to.

“So much work has gone into today from a lot of hard-working people in the team so I am glad to have won something for them, and for me to show that hard work really pays off.”

World Champions Coutya and Gilliver are back in action on Friday when they contest the men’s epee team event along with fellow Bath-based wheelchair fencer Oliver Lam-Watson, who is making his Paralympics debut. The trio are also competing in the team foil on Sunday, with Coutya going in the individual event on Saturday.

Meanwhile, in the Tokyo Aquatics Centre, Suzanna Hext missed out on a S5 100m freestyle medal by just six-hundredths of a second as she was touched into fourth place by Italy’s Monica Boggioni.

It was a fantastic swim by Hext, who does her strength and conditioning training at the Sports Training Village with EIS coach Michael Peacock, as she revealed she had suffered an asthma attack shortly after finishing fourth in Wednesday’s 200m freestyle final. She returns to the pool on Sunday for the SB4 100m breaststroke.

Eight Bath-based sportspeople and graduate Stuart Wood are competing at the Paralympic Games. Click here for full details.

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