24 Mar 2021
March 24, 2021, DOHA: Doha is once again set to be the centre of focus for global sports as the world top fencers descend on the sport-loving city for the FIE Grand Prix Doha 2021, a Tokyo Olympics qualifying event, from March 26 to 28.
The expanded FOIL-only competition, the first of its kind to be hosted in Qatar, is set to attract about 500 delegations from 51 countries. Included are 296 male and female players, who would be competing for points that help towards qualification for the Tokyo Olympics at the ultra-modern Aspire Dome in Doha.
The competition is one of the surest ways for fencers to secure their tickets for Tokyo as the top-16 athletes automatically get a berth at the end of the three-day event. Qualification for the remaining athletes will then have to depend on the results from the subsequent regional competitions.
Participants will earn double points for their performance, which adds to their rankings, while a maximum of 64-points is on the cards for the winners.
In line with the measures put in place to ensure all participants' health and safety, the mega-event will be held with strict adherence to the Qatari health authorities' protocols and the guideline from FIE. The competition is closed to the fans.
Ahead of the competition, an agreement signing ceremony was held on Wednesday between the Qatar Weightlifting & Fencing Federation (QWFF) and the Aspire Academy.
In attendance at the event were QWFF General Secretary Khalid Issa Al-Hamadi, the Deputy Director General at Aspire Academy Ali Salem Afifa, Khaled Suweid, and other officials from the federations and the Aspire Academy.
Al Hamadi said, "We would like to appreciate the Aspire Academy for their continuous support to the federation and the annual Qatar Grand Prix in particular. Aspire is our main and strategic partner for this tournament. We are working together to build a formidable team that will proudly represent Qatar at the Asian Games in 2030, and this competition will further help in this regard. We are partners in progress towards the development of fencing in Qatar, and we look forward to a continued fruitful relationship."
The QWFF secretary-general noted that the competitions would be broadcasted on Al Kass Channel, Olympic Channel and Eurosport on all three days, with the grand finale aired live on Al Kass Channel from 8 am to 6 pm on the day.
"The competition is generating huge interests from around the world, and we are having a large number of delegations from the participating countries. The USA, Japan and Russia are leading the contingents with 35 representatives each. At the same time, from the Arab world, we have a ten-member delegation from Egypt, three from Tunisia and one each from Morocco and Algeria," Al Hamadi added.
Qatar is being represented by eight athletes (four male and four females), mainly from the Aspire Academy, namely - Ali Turki, Abdullah Ismail, Khaled Aref, Hussein Al-Mutawa, and Faisal Al-Suwaidi (men). Amira Boujbara, Lina Al Buainain, Ghraiba Dhahi, and Rana Ibrahim are representing the women.
Afifa said, "The cooperation between QWFF and Aspire Academy has been on for a very long time, and we count it a privilege to be associated with the development of fencing in Qatar. Aspire Academy is one of the best globally, and we are happy to partner with the federation in training and developing the athletes and staff. We want to thank Mr Mohammed Yousef Al-Mana, the federation president, for his immeasurable support.
We look forward to a great and very successful tournament."
Afifa noted that Qatar's impressive performance in successfully hosting several high-profile tournaments amid the pandemic had endeared it to everyone, and everybody is looking forward to coming to Qatar.
"Since many athletes have not been able to compete for a long time due to the pandemic, all of them are looking forward to coming to Qatar to compete and boost their chances of qualifying for Tokyo," he said.
Top stars expected in Doha include the world's top-three in the women category - Inna Deriglazova of Russia, Italy's Alice Volpi and her compatriot Elisa Di Francisca. For the men, Italy's Alessio Foconi, Enzo Lefort from France and USA's Gerek Meinhardt will be headlining the star casts, including the world's top-14.
Meanwhile, Khalid Suwied, the competition's head of the venues committee, has reiterated his committee's readiness for the competition.
"I can confirm that we are ready for the tournament. The venues and equipment are ready, and all is set to host the world. In total, 16 competition halls are ready at the main venue aside from 10 training halls in addition to a special hall for the final and the coronation ceremonies," he said.
He added that the rooms for the referees, volunteers and the media committee are also well equipped.
"We have the VIP section and a fully equipped studio for live commentary, which have all been made ready in line with the health and safety guidelines stipulated by the authorities," Suwied said.
Muhammad Al-Sahli, head of the Public Relations and Transportation Committee, said, "Despite the difficulties facing the world due to the coronavirus pandemic, we have been able to overcome these exceptional circumstances by establishing a smooth and flexible system. Preventive measures have been put in place by the authorities at the airport and the hotel in cooperation with the Rowad Center for Voluntary Work, the Red Crescent Society, and the health services in the country."
Fencing Grand Prix 2021 Doha Schedule
Day 1: March 26 (Friday) – Full Day Men Poules, T128 to T64
Day 2: March 27 (Saturday) – Full Day Women Poules, T128 to T64
Day 3: March 28 (Sunday) – T64 to Quarter Final
– 6 PM onwards- Men & Women Semi-Finals & Finals