“To take gold on the biggest stage, in a sport that I am so passionate about, would mean the world to me."
Great Britain’s Piers Gilliver will enter the wheelchair fencing piste at Rio 2016 as the gold medal favourite in the men’s category A epee event. But just a few years ago, while Gilliver had the skills to reach Rio, he did not have the money.
At one point, cuts to his sport’s funding threatened to bring Gilliver’s road to Rio to a premature end. Support from other sources kept his training going and his results improved rapidly. After Gilliver won his third title in succession at the Grand Prix event in Hong Kong in December 2014, extra financial support arrived and his focus could turn fully to qualifying for Rio 2016. According to the 21-year-old, coming thorough this uncertainty has made selection for the Paralympic Games even more special.
“Rio 2016 really does mean so much to me, not only as it is my dream to represent my country at a Paralympic Games in a sport that I love, but also because I have had so much support from so many people along the way,” Gilliver said. “They made it possible for me to continue fencing until I was lucky enough to be given UK Sport funding to continue training.”
Gilliver’s road to Rio started four years ago, with the inspiration of his home Games at London 2012. His first senior podium appearance came just three months later, with bronze at the World Cup in Eger, Hungary, in December 2013.
In 2012 Gilliver was part of the British Paralympic Association’s Paralympic Inspiration Programme. The initiative gives aspiring athletes the chance to spend several days at a Paralympic Games to help prepare them for their own future Games experiences.
“This insight into the Games and seeing the Paralympic competition gave me a huge drive to try and qualify for Rio,” he said.
Now, with his spot in Rio confirmed, Gilliver has made every training session count.
“As with all competitions, training is getting more focused and intense, working on the finite details of technique, tactics and making sure my body is in physically good shape to perform,” he said.
Gilliver puts his success down to training “intelligently.”
“Every training session should have a focus, where I know what I am working on, why and what weaknesses I am trying to correct, or strengths I am trying to enforce,” Gilliver said.
World No. 1 in the men’s category A epee, Gilliver hopes this regime will enable him to overcome his rivals, in particular China’s Gang Sun, whom Gilliver identifies as the biggest threat to gold.
Having teammate Dimitri Coutya, who competes in the men’s foil event category B, along for the ride in Rio will be a big support.
“There has always been a great atmosphere on the team and Dimitri and I have been close friends since we started competing together in 2011,” Gilliver explained.
“We've progressed through the sport together and continue to support each other. It is going to be a tight-knit team in Rio.
“This is what it's all about, to be able to compete in my sport at the highest level, with other athletes who are also at the top of the sport from all over the world,” Gilliver said. “To showcase disability sport in such an arena is what every athlete dreams of. I consider being part of the ParalympicsGB team an honour and an accolade.”
After the ups and downs of the last few years, Gilliver admitted nothing would compare with winning a Paralympic title in a few weeks’ time.
“To take gold on the biggest stage, in a sport that I am so passionate about, would mean the world to me,” he said.
Sport fans from around the world can now buy their Paralympic tickets for Rio 2016 from authorised ticket resellers (ATRs)
The IPC’s Global ATR is Jet Set Sports, and Rio 2016 tickets and packages can be purchased on the CoSport website.
Residents of Brazil can buy 2016 Paralympics tickets directly from the Rio 2016 website.
Visa International is the exclusive payment card and the official payment system for the Paralympic Games.