Rio 2016 Olympics: Richard Kruse deserved a bronze for his fourth-place finish, says his coach
- Credit: PA Wire/Press Association Images
Richard Kruse’s coach believes his protégé effectively won an Olympic bronze medal after finishing fourth in Rio – and he hopes the 33-year-old’s run to the semi-finals will inspire a new generation of British fencers.
Kruse has been a member at Finchley Foil in Mill Hill, Salle Paul in Hendon and now ZFW - which is based at South Hampstead High School – while he also helps to train youngsters from Camden Fencing Club at Acland Burghley School.
He is appearing at his fourth Olympics and enjoyed his best run in the individual men’s foil competition on Sunday.
Kruse beat double Olympic champion Andrea Cassara of Italy to reach the semi-finals, securing prime-time TV coverage and getting the nation on the edge of their seats.
The north Londoner, who attended The Compton School in Summers Lane, North Finchley, had a chance to be Britain’s first medallist of the Rio Games, and GB’s first Olympic fencing medallist for 52 years.
However, he lost to the world No1, Alexander Massialas (USA), in the final four. And, when he then faced Russia’s Timur Safin in the battle for bronze, he suffered an agonising 15-13 defeat - having battled back from 12-5 down.
That cost Kruse a place on the podium but his Polish coach Ziemek Wojciechowski, who lives in Willifield Way in Hampstead Garden Suburb and was by his side on Sunday, sees the result differently.
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Speaking in Rio, he told Ham&High Sport: “For me, Richard won a bronze medal because in other sports like boxing there are two bronze medals - and in the world championships for fencing there are also two bronze medals.
“I think it’s a little bit hard on the fencers, and personally I would support it if the Olympics was like other fighting sports, where they’ve got two bronze medals.
“I can see this as a bronze medal for Richard and I think it would be very welcome to change the rules at Olympic level.
“There will definitely be a boost [for fencing in Britain] because so many people were watching on the TV. Everyone is interested in the Olympics and it’s a great platform for boosting minority sports like fencing. More children will maybe start being interested in it, and there are opportunities at little clubs like ours for children (at ZFW, which us named after Wojciechowski’s initials).”
There was disappointment for Barnet’s James Davis on Sunday as he bowed out in the last 16, also losing to Kruse’s conqueror Safin by the same 15-13 scoreline, while Laurence Halsted was defeated by China’s Chen Haiwei in the last 32.
The British trio, who have all been members of Salle Paul in the past and worked with Wojciechowski, will now join forces in tomorrow’s (Friday’s) team event, while Hampstead’s Marcus Mepstead is the reserve.
They will face a Russian team that includes Safin in the quarter-finals, but Wojciechowski is unconcerned by the fact that two of Britain’s fencers lost to the bronze medallist at the weekend.
“I think they’ll be more hungry to deliver a team performance,” he said. “I can see what’s happening to this team - they’re bonding together and trying to really go for it.
“Laurence will be extremely hungry and determined - the same with James Davis, and of course Richard is dying for a medal so they will all put in a phenomenal performance, in my opinion.
“The Russians are without Dmitry Rigin and we don’t like facing him - he’s really uncomfortable for us. We don’t have a very good record with him but they have replaced him with someone who is not a threat for our guys.
“Richard had the measure of Safin towards the end of the fight and James knows how to fence him too now.
“I’m very positive about the first match, which would take the team into the top four, and then they have to win at least one more match. France would be a great choice because we fence very well against them.”
Wojciechowski, who has been Britain’s national coach on two occasions – including during the 2012 Olympics – admits he is as keen as anyone for the nation to secure their first fencing medal since 1964.
“I’ve lived here for more than I lived in Poland so I’m actually kind of British - although Polish as well of course, don’t get me wrong,” he said.
“After 38 years of living in this country, I feel I get a little bit more used to the mentality, the culture and the British values – but obviously I am Polish.”