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  • Boxers, Fencers Convey Positive Experiences in Baku -- On the Scene


    06/26/15

    (ATR) Boxers and Fencers competing in medal contests at Baku 2015 spoke of positive and rewarding experiences at the inaugural European Games.

    Azerbaijani light heavyweight Mammadov is awarded a unanimous decision (ATR)
    Energy and enthusiasm was high at Crystal Hall with five gold medals for the taking, two in women’s classifications and three for the men on Thursday night.

    Azeri fighter Teymur Mammadov battled Italian Valention Manfredonia for light heavyweight gold in the final bout on the card.

    In somewhat of a sloppy fight, with lots of clutching and grabbing, Mammadov was awarded a unanimous decision igniting rapturous applause from the crowd.

    After the bout, Manfredonia admitted “Mammadov was the better fighter.”

    Azerbaijani president Ilham Aliyev and First Lady Mehriban Aliyeva were in attendance cheering on the home country favorite. Aliyev and international boxing federation president C.K. Wu presented medals to the light heavyweights.

    Between rounds as music blared throughout the arena, the Azerbaijani fans rose to their feet, clapping in unison and waving their nation’s blue, red and green flags.

    Earlier, the first boxing gold medal of Baku 2015 went to Great Britain’s Nicole Adams, who won a decision over Poland’s Sandra Drabik on points. She danced around the ring in triumph. In the women’s middleweight division, Dutch boxer Nouchka Fontijn won a unanimous decision over her Swedish counterpart.

    “For me, it’s the best achievement so far,” said Fontijn, who has competed at world championships, of the European Games. “There were a lot of Azerbaijanis cheering for both boxers, so it was very nice."

    Rounding out Thursday’s evening program, a duo of Russians claimed gold in the two other men’s weight divisions.
    Irish light flyweight Brendan Irvin settled for silver. “It was brilliant, there was a mixed atmosphere in the place with Russia versus Ireland,” Irvin said. “It has been unbelievable here, the people have been lovely, the foods has been brilliant, the accommodations are unreal and the boxing venue has been brilliant, what more can you ask for."

    Fencers Duel for Gold Medals

    An all-Italian Epee semifinal at Crystal Hall (ATR)
    Men’s individual foil and women’s individual sabre semi-finals and finals were on the fencing program Thursday
    night at Crystal Hall 3. Despite Azerbaijani twin sisters Sevil and Sevinc Bunyatova competing in opposite semi-finals with a chance to meet in the final, spectators were slow to fill up the modest-sized arena.

    Attendance at the start of competition was roughly 150 spectators, although the number rose to more than 200 as the evening progressed. Just ten minutes before competition began, only ten media members were visible in the tribune.

    The opening semi-final contest pitted a pair of familiar Italians against one another. Alessio Foconi jumped out to a 4-0 lead over his 18-year-old countryman Francesco Ingargolo. Despite a stirring charge from behind by Ingargolo, Foconi battled back to attain a 15-14 victory. Ingargola – who trains at Italy’s world-renowned Club Schera Jesi – complimented the small, but energetic crowd.

    “Even though fencing is not so popular in Azerbaijan, I could feel the energy of the crowd,” Ingargola said.

    Foconi defeated Russian Timur Arslanov to claim gold for Italy in men’s epee. Frenchman Tony Helissey, who was assured of a bronze medal after losing to a Russian rival in his semi-final match, had nothing but positives to convey about Baku. “The crowd was amazing and the venue was really good too – actually it was comparable to our best World Cup in Paris,” he said.

    “It has been really fun here, in the village, all the fencers are in one big apartment,” said the 25-year-old Frenchman. “The epee guy, like me, is also from the Caribbean, so we’ve had a really good time together. Actually, I have to admit though, the party will really start now."

    For the Azerbaijani fans who came to cheer on the Bunyatova sisters, it wasn’t quite the party they had hoped for.

    Poland’s Angelika Wator was the party crasher defeating Sevinc in the semi-finals and Sevil in the final to earn gold. Sevil Bunyatova settled for silver and Sevinc Bunyatova won her bronze medal match – a memorable evening for the siblings and the Azerbaijani fans.

    Reported in Baku by Brian Pinelli

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