Kruse retains foil title at Shanghai Grand Prix
21 May 2018 / 10:40
As the Grand Prix season ended in Shanghai, Richard Kruse defended his men’s foil title as he beat Russia’s Timur Safin 15-13.
Kruse, from London, was a favourite from the outset as he entered the competition ranked fourth, meaning he went straight through to the round of 64.
He faced Benjamin Kleibrink, Huang Mengkai, Ha Taegyu, Francesco Trani and Andrea Cassara on his way to beating Safin, the world number six.
“It’s the first time I’ve defended a Grand Prix title and I couldn’t be more delighted,” said 34-year-old Kruse.
“The last two fights were very tough against experienced opponents but my focus is already on the Europeans and Worlds.”
Kruse’s first match against Germany’s Kleibrink was perhaps his hardest, as he won by just one point on 15-14.
He gained momentum and enjoyed a comfortable run against China’s Mengkai, who he beat 15-7, and Taegyu, Korea’s reigning Asian champion, who Kruse beat 15-9, having lost two of their three previous meetings.
A 15-13 win over the Italian Trani, to whom Kruse has never lost, set up a semi-final clash with Cassara, another Italian.
Kruse had a 4-2 head-to-head record against the world number nine, and Kruse had to come from behind to level 9-9.
A break ensured Cassara could compose himself and regain his lead, making it 14-11 before a last-gasp resurgence from Kruse ensured his 15-14 win.
Kruse had only faced his final opponent once, at the Olympic Games in Rio – where Safin won the bronze medal play-off.
Again, Kruse had to come from behind as Safin took an early 6-4 lead, before Kruse engaged and counter-attacked to go ahead.
Safin was a determined opponent, however, and the restored parity at 9-9 before re-establishing a 13-11 lead.
But Kruse maintained his composure and employed a series of surprise defensive moves to win 15-13 and take the gold.
His coach Ziemek Wojciechowski was thrilled with Kruse’s character, saying, “These days there is a very large group of potential winners in men’s foil, so to win a Grand Prix is particularly hard – but to win it for the second time in a row is almost unbelievable.
“Richard showed tremendous strength of character today.”
Having won gold in Shanghai, Kruse remains fourth in the world rankings and will look for more success at the European Championships in Novi Sad, Serbia, next month.