“I want to thank [the fans] for their support, for love. They are giving us big positives and energy. I promise to do my best at this World Cup, to make them proud."
More than 130 athletes from 20 countries are preparing to start their road to the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games at the Wheelchair Fencing World Cup in Tbilisi, Georgia, from 8-11 November.
The competition is the first to take place within the qualification period for the next Paralympics.
As well as the medals on offer, performances will go towards a rankings list which will determine who gets a ticket to Tokyo.
The competition will also be Georgia’s inaugural World Cup as the sport expands around the world.
The country’s first female wheelchair fencer, world champion Irma Khetsuriani, is the headline act in the sabre category B.
Khetsuriani reached the top of the podium at the World Cup in Warsaw, Poland, in July. However at the 2018 European Championships in Terni, Italy, two months later, the 33-year-old finished behind Ukraine’s Olena Fedota and Hungary’s Boglarka Mezo to leave with bronze.
This time Khetsuriani is determined to put on a good show for her fans as the world No.1.
“I want to thank them for their support, for love. They are giving us big positives and energy. I promise to do my best at this World Cup, to make them proud as they are full of pride when we are winning the medals. Thank you my Georgians, I love you.”
Regional championships in action
In the women’s epee category A, China’s Paralympic champion Jingjing Zhou will be hoping to bounce back from defeat at the Asian Championships in October.
Zhou lost out to Thailand’s Saysunee Jana but this time could face Hungary’s world champion Zsuzsanna Krajynak in the ultimate showdown.
Two new regional champions highlight the entries in the men’s sabre category B. Canada’s Pierre Mainville secured gold at his home Americas Championships in Saskatoon in September.
He was swiftly followed by Poland’s Adrian Castro at the European equivalent with his first title. Greece’s Paralympic silver medallist Panagiotis Triantafyllou is another face to look out for.
The tables were turned in the men’s foil category B at the Euros when Italy’s Marco Cima finished first ahead of Great Britain’s world champion Dmitri Coutya in third.
Poland’s Jacek Gaworski is a consistent podium finisher in this event, with medals from both the World and European Championships. Fresh from his Asian title, China’s Daoliang Hu will also be in the mix.
The Tbilisi World Cup is the penultimate edition of 2018. The year ends in Kyoto, Japan, from 13-16 December.