18.06.2019 0:00

Tough start for Yuval Freilich turns to gold

Today, 24-year-old Yuval Frielich made history by claiming Israel’s first ever European fencing title in the men’s individual epee tournament on day two of the European Championships in Dusseldorf.  He beat Italy’s Andrea Santarelli 15-9 in the final as Enrico Garozzo, also from Italy and the Czech Republic’s Jiri Beran had to settle for the bronze medals.

It wasn’t an ideal start for Freilich, dropping two fights from six in the ranking round which meant he went into the knockout phase seeded twenty-fourth.  A tough draw was met with some excellent fencing from the Israeli, who beat Ukraine’s World number three, Bogdan Nikishin on route to the semi-finals.  He met Beran at that stage, beating him comfortably, 15-8.

The two Italians progressed through the other half of the table to the semi-finals where they met each other in a tense match.  Santarelli came out on top 15-12.

In the final, with passivity looming, the fencers registered a double hit.  Freilich decided to press Santarelli but the Italian was happy to absorb the early pressure.  The two fencers went into the first break with the score level at 3-3.  A lively second period followed with both fencers deciding to go on the attack.  The more compact and accurate Freilich led 11-7 by the second break.  In the third and final period, Santarelli had no choice but to attack the Israeli with more intensity.  Freilich kept the distance close so he could pick his opponent off at the beginning of his attacks and took the match to 14-9.  The winning hit was a classy counter attack and put Freilich in the history books as Israel’s first ever European champion.

Speak straight after the final, Freilich said, “It’s pretty crazy and I’m still trying to take it all in.  Everything connected for me today.  After a hard start, things came together in the round of 32.  From then on I felt I fenced very well.”

His coach, Ohad Balva, referenced Israel’s first ever European medal (Noam Mills, women’s individual epee bronze in Leipzig in 2010), in his summary of the day.  “I’ve been to the top of the mountain and then down in the valley.  Now I’m back at the top and it’s great.  Yuval fenced so well today to become the Champion and we got two other top sixteen finishes, so it’s a good day for Israel.  Now we have to continue to fence strongly and humbly.”

The event continues tomorrow with the men’s sabre and women’s epee individual events.

For further information please contact Karim Bashir (
Catch Sport, working in partnership on communications with the European Fencing Confederation.
More pictures(Photo Bizzi Team