British fencing trio foiled

28 July 2012 / 13:53

Britain's first three fencers into action were unable to make it into the last 16 of the women's foil at the ExCeL arena - but they all believe the nerve-testing experience will help them in next Thursday's team event.

Natalia Sheppard and Sophie Troiano had to fight each other in the first round, but after winning a tense clash 12-9 Sheppard was then crushed 15-5 by France's world number six Corinne Maitrejean.

Meanwhile, Aberdeen-born Anna Bentley, by far the lowest-ranked of the 38 competitors in the event, was a heart-breaking one second away from pulling off a huge upset, but lost in sudden death.

The 31-year-old, at 165th in the world ranked 122 places below Canadian Monica Peterson, brought a huge roar from the crowd when she took a 9-8 lead with six seconds remaining.

But her opponent levelled it with a do-or-die lunge and, despite Bentley's protestations, scored the decisive hit 23 seconds into the extra minute.

Sheppard refused to blame being woken up by the opening ceremony fireworks.

"I couldn't believe how loud they were - incredible," said the 28-year-old, whose older sister Irena fenced for Poland in Beijing four years ago.

"I got my phone to take pictures, but by then it was all over. All I got was smoke - London on fire basically.

"But that was fine - it's part of the Olympics - and even though I didn't go to the ceremony I've got the clothes. That's my clubbing outfit!"

As for her defeat she said: "Corinne is an amazing fencer and the French have really come on - helped by us because we invited them to a training camp in February to improve our performance.

"It's her second Olympics, so she has all the experience behind her, and a few of the tactical things we worked on didn't 100% pan out.

"A couple of decisions I didn't agree with as well, but I'm not trying to take away from her. I'm sure she's going to do great things.

"She was just able to hit every position today - everything was happening for her."

Sheppard, who came through the European qualifying competition and so did not have to rely on a host nation spot like Troiano and Bentley, was 8-1 down after only two minutes.

She did claw her way back to 9-5 behind, but the second of the three three-minute periods was only 26 seconds old when Maitrejean reached the 15 points needed for victory.

Troiano, ranked 58 places below Sheppard at 100th in the world, gave a fine account of herself, five times pulling back to only one down after falling 6-1 behind early on.

But from 10-9 Sheppard scored two hits in the final six seconds.

"It's never nice to draw a team-mate, but we always knew there was a chance," said Troiano.

"If I had been switched on at the start I might have done better, but it would be unnatural not to be nervous - it's the greatest show on earth.

"My efforts are now going to be focused on the team event. We have a strong team and a good chance of doing well."

Bentley's disappointment was also tempered by the fact that she was chosen mainly for the team event.

"The crowd really helped and I thought it was mine, but you have to die by the referee's decision," she said

"Competing in the individual was a real bonus for me. Hopefully now we come together after Natalia and Sophie had to fight each other."