British fencing great Richard Kruse announces retirement
- Credit: Chris Turner
It has been a long road from a community hall in North Finchley to Athens, Beijing, Rio de Janeiro and random points in between for north London's Richard Kruse.
Now, after 20 years of representing Great Britain on the fencing piste as one of the most successful foilist in this country’s history, Kruse is stepping off the international competitive pathway.
Kruse, 37, has trained with ZFW Fencing Club founder and head coach Ziemek Wojciechowski from the age of “10 and three-quarters” and will carry on in the sport as a coach for Salle Paul Fencing Club, which operates out of the Leon Paul Fencing Centre in Hendon.
“I felt that after 20 years at senior international level, it was time to go,” he said. “I certainly have no regrets about my career because I got better innings than most!”
Think of Kruse and associations to the Olympics are seldom far away. He competed in his first Olympics in Athens in 2004, finishing in the top eight, represented Great Britain again in Beijing in 2008 and the London 2012 Games.
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Then, at his fourth Olympics in Rio in 2016, Kruse finished achingly close to the podium, in fourth spot.
“The most exciting moment was qualifying for my first Olympics,” he added.
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I was so pumped up with adrenaline that I didn’t sleep that night as the congratulatory text messages flooded in.”
There are victories and defeats, in every athlete’s career, but how did Kruse manage them?
“Just move on from the losses and continue training. Enjoy and celebrate the wins, but move on from those, too,” he said.
“Ultimately, you have to get in the mileage in Olympic sports and perseverance is the key.”
Kruse has claimed podium places in dozens of competitions at home and abroad, winning silver at the World Championships in 2018, and silvers at the European Championships in 2006 and 2009.
He is a multiple gold-medal winner at senior World Cups, claiming the podium in Shanghai, Bonn and Tokyo over the course of 2018 and 2019, when he was world number one.
His last international competition representing Great Britain was in Doha, Qatar, in March of this year, when fencing resumed after being shuttered by Covid-19. Kruse finished his final season ranked 40th in the world.
Sustaining a high-performance level of athleticism has demanded unwavering commitment to training and the canny ability to time prowess to coincide with competitions.
This has been a full-time job since 2009 for Kruse, who has a degree in civil engineering but has dedicated himself to sport and relied on funding from UK Sport and private sponsors to stay in the game.
In the run-up to Olympic competition, Kruse would do two lengthy training sessions a day in the fencing hall, including sparring, stretching and lessons with Maestro Wojciechowski, himself an experienced elite-level coach and competitor.
Wojciechowski posted news of Kruse’s retirement on social media with a list of his many accomplishments, simply saying: “British fencing won’t be the same without Richard on the piste.” It was a sentiment repeated many times.
“It’s been an honour and privilege to have been able to work with Richard – a fencing genius and a fascinating human being,” wrote Johnny Davis, who is the UK’s Olympic fencing manager.
ZFW’s club secretary Sheryl Chiu-Sosnov posted: “A legendary athlete moulded by a legendary coach! An unsurpassable GREAT Briton -- we’re going to miss you on the piste Richard Kruse!”
The sport has taken Kruse to some 65 countries over the past two decades, including North Korea, Albania and Kyrgyzstan.
"I ended up doing extra trips after competitions to go off the beaten track,” he said.
“I learn languages in my free time as a hobby that clearly complements my love of travel. If it weren’t for fencing then I wouldn’t have met my wife Ivon, who is from Cuba -- so I owe fencing a lot.”
Kruse recalled his first medal in the sport, at an Under-13 competition in Leicester in 1995, noting: “I’ve still got that medal in the garage.” And he is known and respected within the fencing world for the time and energy he gives to the sport’s younger members, skills which will serve him well in his new role.
Comparing fencing to physical chess, Kruse urges anyone interested to give it a try.
“I didn’t know much about the sport of fencing when I first went to a club – other than it was something to do with sword fighting,” he said.
"There is a demanding physical component, but it is a thinking person’s game. Ultimately you get the enjoyment of a combat sport without getting hurt (that much)!”
2001 Youngest-ever British Senior Champion at the age of 17
2002 Junior European Champion
2003 Top 8 in the World Championships in Havana, Cuba
2004 Top 8 at the Olympic Games in Athens, Greece
2006 Silver-medal winner at the European Championships
2009 Gold in the Copenhagen World Cup
2009 Silver at the European Championships
2009 Gold at a Grand Prix in Venice
2010 Gold in Copenhagen at a World Cup
2016 Gold at a World Cup in Havana, Cuba
2016 Top four at the Rio Olympic Games
2017 Gold in Cairo at a World Cup
2017 Gold at the Shanghai Grand Prix
2017 Top 8 in World Championships
2018 Gold at the Shanghai Grand Prix
2018 Silver at the World Championships
2018 Gold at a World Cup in Bonn, Germany
2019 Gold at the Tokyo World Cup
2019 World Number One