Sheppard enjoys Olympic qualification

23 April 2012 / 11:09

Natalia Sheppard is looking to show just what progress British fencers have made after becoming the second member of the squad to earn a place at this summer's Olympics.

The 27-year-old came through the European qualifying event in Bratislava on Sunday to join fellow foilist Richard Kruse, who will be competing in his third Games, in London. Eight other host nation spots have yet to be handed out.

"Since the women's foil squad have been part of the World Class Programme we have gone from strength to strength," said Sheppard. "I can't wait for London to show the rest of the world just how far we have come."

Her coach Maciej Wojtkowiak added: "I have always believed that the women's foil squad had great potential.

"Every single person in the support team has contributed to the great achievement reached by Natalia. I am looking forward with great optimism for the future."

British Fencing's performance manager Alex Newton said: "I have been criticised in many quarters for backing the women's foil squad, but with Maciej at the helm I always knew they would fulfil their potential.

"I am delighted for Maciej and Natalia for embracing the changes to the World Class Programme."

After winning all but one of her six first-round matches, the 55th-ranked Sheppard earned a bye at the start of the knockout stages, then beat Slovakian Michala Cellerova 15-4 in the quarter-finals and Romanian Cristina Ghita 10-6 to secure the Olympic spot.

She fell 5-2 down, but pulled it back to 6-6 and with 19 seconds left scored a crucial 13th hit.

Ghita then had to take the fight to her opponent and Sheppard pounced to grab three more points.