Russia’s Violetta Kolobova will look to become the first woman to defend the individual épée at the European Fencing Championships when competition gets underway at Toruń in Poland tomorrow.
Over 400 fencers from 40 countries are expected to compete across épée, foil and sabre events, as well as the team competitions, during the week-long championships, due to end on June 25.
Kolobova defeated Italy’s Rossella Fiamingo in last year’s gold medal contest in Montreux and the 24-year-old will hope to replicate her achievement in the final major event for European fencers ahead of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
Italy’s Elisa Di Francisca will also be chasing history as she aims to equal the record of her compatriot Valentina Vezzali of winning five gold medals in women’s individual foil.
Victory would also see the reigning Olympic champion equal the records of Stanislav Pozdniakov of Russia and Ukraine’s Olga Kharlan in winning a gold in an individual event in four consecutive years.
Pozdniakov triumphed in the men’s sabre from 2001 to 2004, while Kharlan claimed golds from 2011 to 2014 in the women’s sabre event.
Kharlan will hope to return to the top of the podium in Toruń, having seen her run of victories ended by Russia’s Sofya Velikaya last year, but the reigning world champion will begin as favourite for victory.
France’s Gauthier Grumier, the World Championship silver medallist in the men’s individual épée, will seek to defend his European crown.
He could face competition from Max Heinzer, the beaten finalist last year, who will be hoping to become only the second man, after Olivier Carrard, to win the European title for Switzerland in the event.
Hungary’s Aron Szilagyi and Italy’s Andrea Cassara will begin as the defending champions in the respective men’s sabre and foil events.