Olympics-Foiled in Beijing, Romania fencer goes for gold


Thu, 24 May 07:30:00 2012

Foiled at the last in Beijing, Romanian fencer Ana-Maria Branza believes the experience will stand her in good stead to step up from silver to gold at this year's Olympic Games in London.

The 27-year-old made her first Olympics debut in 2004 and then won the silver medal in epee four years ago, missing out on the gold to Germany's Britta Heidemann.

She now ranks second in the world behind China's Sun Yujie.

"The only person I should be afraid of is me, of how I will react and how I will deal with pressure until then," Branza told Reuters in an interview at a training gym in her hometown Bucharest.

"That's all. As for the rest, there's no reason why I should be afraid."

The professional fencer, who is a member of Bucharest's CSA Steaua club, is in the final stages of preparation for the Olympics, training in the gym and working on technical and tactical aspects of fencing for up to three hours daily.

The key to gold would be coming up with something new, since all the contestants would be well prepared and know each other well, Branza said.

The big challenge will be China's Sun, a rising talent competing at her first Olympics, while Heidemann has sunk to 23rd in the epee rankings. Branza won her only tie against Sun.

"One must surprise the opponent, and not in a pleasant way," she said. "Now of course, everyone says that this silver should be changed for gold."

Branza first stepped into a fencing gym back in 1995 when she was 11-years-old, pushed from the back by her brother.

"I've asked him why he chose fencing for me. The only explanation was that I was very much a tomboy when I was young."

Now, almost 17 years later, the Romanian fencer said she has never considered doing something else with her life, even though she came second last at her first championship.

"I just followed my road. And apparently this was my road in the end, " she said.


Thinking about the previous two Olympics, Branza said she was now more focused on London than remembering the past. In Athens she felt somehow out of place among athletes she had previously seen only on television.

"Honestly, I believe it was better for me then, when I was more relaxed than now when everybody tells me I must come back with a medal," she said.

Beijing was a different story. The team went to the competition two weeks before it started and Branza wished she could come home as soon as possible.

"I remember the competition gym even now. If I think well about it I remember every touch, every training we did there before, the fact the people from anti-doping came to us every day ... These are memories you can't give up."

Whatever happens in London, where team mate Simona Gherman also has a shot at a medal, Branza is already looking to 2016.

"My colleagues plan this (having a child) after London, but me no. I prefer thinking about Rio," she said. "I was given a gift when I was born and it's not the case to refuse it if I still can do this."


Not already a Yahoo! user ? to get a free Yahoo! Account