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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Fencer Cuts Two-Edged Triumph

Russian fencer Stanislav Pozdnyakov found out that professional sports are not all glamour on the weekend.


First, the army lieutenant from Novosibirsk, 22, had to go through six bouts on his way to winning the Moscow Sabre amateur fencing competition -- a regularly scheduled World Cup tournament -- mid-afternoon Saturday.


Then, a few hours later, after racing across Moscow, Pozdnyakov beat the rest of the world's top eight sabre fighters to capture the $30,000 Golden Sword invitational -- the first fully professional fencing competition held in Russia.


The overall World Cup sabre winner the last two years, Pozdnyakov beat countryman Sergei Sharikov in the evening final by a score of 15-10 to claim the $10,000 first prize. Sharikov won $5,000 while the losing semifinalists, Russia's Grigory Kirienko and Hungary's Jozef Navarrete, got $3,000 each.


"I hope the award podium will have the same look in Atlanta six months from now," said the winner. "For one thing, it'll probably be easier to win the Olympic gold than to fence in two tournaments in one day."


Right after Pozdnyakov beat Italy's Luigi Tarantino 15-11 in the World Cup final at the sports arena in Chertanovo, in the southernmost part of Moscow, the fencers were rushed through traffic to CSKA arena on the north side.


"I didn't even have time to eat my lunch," said Rumanian Vilmos Szabo, 31. "I was dying for a hamburger or something just to keep going."


Professional fencing has begun in the last few years, starting as a sideshow for tourists in medieval castles in Europe, said France's Ren? Roch, president of the International Fencing Federation, who is trying to modernize the sport.


"I think it's important for our sport to become more popular if we want to stay in the Olympic Games," he said. "Popularity comes through television."


Roch's proposals for this summer's Olympics include changing fencing costumes from all-white to multi-colored and replacing wire masks with plexiglass so viewers can see the athletes' faces.


Prior to Saturday's events there was talk in local fencing circles that the competitors might rig the results.


"Some need World Cup points, while others want the money," said former fencer Alexander Morgin, now a columnist with Izvestia.


Morgin, who was a lesser light in a similar competition 10 years ago for the Soviet Union, told how some of the favored Russians suddenly began to lose to lower-ranked Western fencers.


"We found out that the Russians had to give back all their prize money to the team's officials," said Morgin, adding the purse was a fraction of this weekend's. "So the top ones agreed with foreign fencers to throw their bouts and split the money with them."


After Pozdnyakov collected the winner's check, he was asked whether the competition was fair this time.


"You bet," he said, poker-faced. "If I had to fence with my good friend Kirienko in the final, I might have considered splitting the money. With anybody else -- no."