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Estep and van der Wege Fall Short at London Paralympic Games

09/05/2012, 10:52am CDT
By Nicole Jomantas

For Paralympic rookie Ryan Estep (Florence, Miss.), it was a single touch that ended his medal aspirations.

(Colorado Springs, Colo.) – For Paralympic rookie Ryan Estep (Florence, Miss.), it was a single touch that ended his medal aspirations.

Ranked third in the world at the start of the Paralympic Games, the 25-year-old opened the pools in the Category B epee event in London with a 5-3 victory over Jose Palavecino (ARG), Estep looked set to continue his pursuit of becoming the first U.S. wheelchair fencer ever to win gold.

“I was in a rough pool, but I’ve fenced all of those guys before and beaten most of them so going into today we thought I had a good shot at 4-0,” Estep said.

In the next round, Estep met Alim Latreche (FRA) who he lost to in the quarter-finals of the 2011 Wheelchair Worlds. Estep said he fenced too passively and lost the bout, 5-2. Latreche, who won bronze in the foil event on Tuesday, went on to add a second bronze in epee.

Estep lost his next bout as well to Iraq’s Amar Ali, 5-3.

“I had even more chances to win that bout. I hit him four times about an inch too low. It was just so frustrating,” Estep said.

With one win under his belt, Estep needed a victory in his final bout against Chik Sum Tam (HKG) to advance to the table of 16.

Tam tied the score at four before winning the bout, 5-4. 

“We split bouts all the time. In Poland I beat him, 5-4, and the time before that he beat me, 5-4. We’re always incredibly close and I just missed a few shots. I couldn’t finish the bout and congrats to him on the silver medal. He fenced brilliantly today. He beat the reigning gold medalist and then he beat the #1-ranked guy in the world who’s medaled in every tournament in the past two years,” said Estep who finished 11th overall. “I felt very good and prepared, but I wasn’t on my game. Today I wasn’t as good as guys I’m normally better than, but they were better than me today. I would have loved to get into the DEs and have 15 touches where I can open up and do more, but I got too flashy and did too many things that weren’t needed.”

Unlike many of his opponents, Estep has fenced for just three years and is looking forward to having a full quadrennium to prepare for Rio.

“Obviously I’m disappointed coming is as one of top seeded fencers and the performance that I had didn’t showcase my ability, but it was a learning experience. Coming from picking up the sword for the first time less than three years ago, I can’t complain too much for how things turned out cause it’s been such a great experience coming here,” Estep said. “I’ve turned into better person as a whole since I started fencing and been under the wings of my coach, Les Stawicki. I’ve been molded and matured into a better person.”

Estep also gave credit to London 2012 for hosting an outstanding Games.

“Huge props to all of Team GB and London 2012. It’s been amazing,” he said. “This is the first time I’ve competed in front of a crowd and it was an amazing feeling … I hope it can carry on and that these Games are a landmark for the future.”

Fifty-seven-year-old Gary van der Wege (Kyle, Texas) left the international scene after competing at the Athens Paralympic Games in 2004, but he made a comeback in 2012 with a gold medal win at the Pan American Wheelchair Championships in the Category A epee event.

After an opening 5-4 loss in the pools to 2011 Wheelchair World medalist Andrii Demchuk (UKR), van der Wege dropped his next bout to Tamasz Juhasz (HUN), 5-2. In his final two bouts, van der Wege was outscored by 5-0 margins by both eventual bronze medalist Matteo Betti (ITA) and Artur Yusupov (RUS) and ended the day in 15th place. 

"I can't say I'm pleased with my performance. I've been out of retirement for just a short period of time and I guess I'm a little bit past my prime but I had a blast here,” said van der Wege who noted that his age proved to be a challenge while competing against younger fencers. “It's been a little frustrating. Everybody here is really fast; they're lightning quick [and] being an old man that makes it a little tough."

Competition concludes for Team USA on Thursday at the ExCeL Centre when Joey Brinson (Florence, Miss.) competes in the Category B men’s saber event.

The competition schedule is as follows (All times local):

11 a.m.
Men’s Category A Saber Pools
Men’s Category B Saber Pools

1:30 p.m.
Men’s Category A Saber Table of 16

2 p.m.
Men’s Category B Saber Table of 16

2:45 p.m.
Men’s Category A Saber Quarter-finals
Men’s Category B Saber Quarter-finals

4:45 p.m.
Men’s Category B Saber Semifinals

5:30 p.m.
Men’s Category B Saber Finals

Visit www.paralympic.org for the complete schedule of which events will be streamed live from London.

Top eight and U.S. results are as follows:

Men’s Category A Epee
1. Dariusz Pender (POL)
2. Romain Noble (FRA)
3. Matteo Betti (ITA)
4. Artur Yusupov (RUS)
5. Jianquan Tian (CHN)
6. Yanfei Duan (CHN)
7. Robert Citerne (FRA)
8. Andrii Demchuk (UKR)

15. Gary van der Wege (Kyle, Texas)

Men’s Category B Epee
1. Jovane Silva Guissone (BRA)
2. Chik Sum Tam (HKG)
3. Alim Latreche (FRA)
4. Mikalai Bezyazychny (BLR)
5. Marc-Andre Cratere (FRA)
6. Amar Ali (IRQ)
7. Daoliang Hu (CHN)
8. Alexander Kyzyukov (RUS)

11. Ryan Estep (Florence, Miss.)

Women’s Category A Epee
1. Chui Yee Yu (HKG)
2. Zsuzsanna Krajnyak (HUN)
3. Baili Wu (CHN)
4. Alla Gorlina (UKR)
5. Yulia Efimova (RUS)
6. Marta Fidrych (POL)
7. Veronika Juhasz (HUN)
8. Sun-Mi Kim (KOR)

Women’s Category B Epee
1. Saysunee Jana (THA)
2. Simone Briese-Baetke (GER)
3. Yui Chong Chan (HKG)
4. Liudmila Vaileva (RUS)
5. Tetiana Pozniak (UKR)
6. Liudmila Lemiashkevich (BLR)
7. Marta Makowska (POL)
8. Cecile Demaude (FRA)



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