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Best friends fight for individual gold

Summer Games 4 August 2023

“She is not only my teammate, but also my best friend,” said Italian Serena Rossini of Elena Tangherlini.

However, last night, they were rivals. On the second day of fencing competition at the Chengdu FISU World University Games, the two friends and student-athletes did battle with Rossini winning the gold medal bout in the women’s individual foil by a score of 15-7.

That rivalry will change when they represent Italy in the upcoming women’s foil team event.

“We grew up together. We live really close to each other. We go to parties together. She is like a part of my family. It was hard because she is like my sister,” said Rossini.

Another difficulty for her in this final was the fact that she was competing against another Italian.

Italy’s fencers face immense pressure due to their country’s fencing legacy, as seen in their recent success at the World Fencing Championships in Milan, where they led the medal table with ten, followed by France with six.

Elena Tangherlini (L) and Serena Rossini (R) both of Italy in the women’s individual foil final

Because of the pressure and the anxiety, the biggest challenge is to be myself. A lot of times during competitions I can’t express myself,” explained the 24-year-old.

This was not the case this time. She felt relaxed, happy, and in tune after having suffered for several years.

“I thought about quitting fencing,” she shared, referring to her serious knee injury suffered during the 2019 Junior World Championships, shortly after securing the women’s individual foil title at home in Italy at the 2019 Junior European Championships.

“I wasn’t prepared to suffer. I had good results in school and fencing. Everything was going well.”

It took a lot of training to come back and join the top Italian fencers. Rossini’s recovery process was made even more difficult by the pandemic.

Being an athlete is not only about being physically fit, but also about the mental aspect that can often be the difference between winning and losing.

“The difference is in the mindset. Whoever is more focused can win, and I really wanted that medal,” said the Carlo Bo University of Urbino student.

“I started to study psychology because of all the painful experiences in my life. It helps me a lot. Not only my studies, but also [in] going to a psychologist to improve my mindset.”

The day’s second gold medalist, Jean-Joseph Kendrick of France, won the men’s individual epee.

Kendrick Jean Joseph of Team France celebrates his victory in men’s individual epee

“It’s my second gold medal, which means a lot to me because I work a lot for this season, so it’s like a gift to me and for everyone who knows me,” said the Martinican.

The future of French fencing is not only inspiring on the piste, but off it as well. He decided to offer the second edition of the Jean-Joseph Kendrick camp with the Martinique Fencing League.

The purpose of this camp is to give young Martinique fencers from M-15 to M-20 categories the opportunity to cross swords with champions before the start of the season.

Both Kendrick and Rossini will be competing in their respective team events over the coming days of competition.

Written by Andjela Cegar, FISU Young Reporter