By Nick Butler

fencing otaAugust 13 - Double Olympic silver medallist and Tokyo 2020 bid ambassador Yuki Ota has been named among six candidates elected to the International Fencing Federation's (FIE) Athletes Commission for the next four years.

A record number of 724 fencers participated in the election, which was held alongside the FIE World Championships in Budapest and consisted of 19 candidates from all over the world.

Ota, the Japanese foil competitor who won silver at Beijing 2008 and London 2012, is a leading figure in Tokyo's 2020 Olympic campaign and used that experience to lead the way in Budapest with 313 votes.

The other five candidates, who have collectively accrued nine Olympic titles and 24 World Championship gold medals, include the United States' double Olympic sabre champion Mariel Zagunis, who secured 278 votes, and Italian six-time Olympic foil champion Valentina Vezzali, with 260 votes.

Completing the list are Hungarian Áron Szilágyi, with 231 votes, Romanian Ana Maria Brânză, with 163 votes, and Russian Nikolay Kovalev, with 154.

tokyo-olympics-bidYuki Ota (far left) answering questions from the media as part of his role as
bid ambassador for Tokyo 2020

Ota is currently taking a post-Olympic break from competitive action so after travelling to Budapest to campaign the 27-year-old was delighted with his success:

"It is a tremendous honour to become a member of the FIE Athletes Commission," he said.

"Fencing is my life, so I am thrilled to serve as one of the Commission's members - today is a huge milestone in my career.

"I love fencing and I want to promote fencing - the FIE is trying their best, but maybe, if I am part of the members, I can create more for Asia."

Ota has been particularly important in promoting the "athletes first" vision in Tokyo's bid and his Commission appointment has been hailed as a further boost for Tokyo's chances ahead of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Session in Buenos Aries next month.

The bid's chief executive Masato Mizuno said Tokyo 2020 as "very proud that one of its bid ambassadors has been given such an honourable role" and he saw the appointment as "a huge day for Ota and the nation".

vezzali medalsItalian star Valentina Vezzali with her vast array of medals ahead of her election to the FIE Athletes Commission

The list features some of the biggest names in fencing including Italian legend Vezzali who last year became just the fourth athlete in Summer Olympic history to win five medals in the same individual event.

Aside from a competitive career, which has also involved 14 world titles including team gold in Budapest last week less than three months after the birth of her second son, Vezzali also became a member of the Italian Parliament in February 2013.

Zagunis is a two time individual Olympic champion after winning at Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008, and ahead of her unsuccessful attempt to win a third title in London last summer she carried the American flag at the Opening Ceremony.

Szilágyi, on the other hand, did win a sabre gold medal at London 2012, although the Hungarian's election will have made up for the slight disappointment of winning only bronze in his home World Championships this year.

Beijing 2008 épée bronze medallist Brânză has long been the leading member of a Romanian team which won world titles in 2010 and 2011, while Kovalev occupies a similar position in a Russian sabre team which has won the last four world titles - including in Budapest last week.

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