Bout Breakdown: Ana-Maria Popescu (ROM) vs. Yiwen Sun (CHI) – A Tokyo Olympic Gold Thriller

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When two of the world’s best fencers face off in the finals of the highest stakes quadrennial tournament, you can only hope for a thriller, and good lord did this bout deliver! This bout featured Romania’s Ana-Maria Popescu against China’s Yiwen Sun, going into priority where Sun sneaked out an 11-10 victory.

  • A common strategy against a French gripper is to rattle their blade in preparation with beats to tire them out and misalign the point, taking advantage of the leverage a pistol grip has over a pommeling French gripper. Popescu commonly employed this tactic, but Sun remained undeterred throughout the bout. Sun feels your beet, Sun doesn’t care.
  • As evidenced by the final 11-10 score in priority, this bout as a game of cautious preparation, only choosing to go for a closing action with low risks in the most opportune moments. The bout averaged 27.72 seconds per touch, and both fencers were awarded a double P-Yellow and double P-Red throughout. In the first period, they averaged 35.4 seconds per touch. Things got a little more aggressive in period 2, and that average dipped to 22.5. Entering the third period at 8-8 both competitors returned to restrained caution, and the time per touch went up to 29.5 seconds.
  • Want to know what an even match looks like? It’s when the score is tied for 8/18 touches, and then Sun and Popescu held the lead for an even 5 touches apiece throughout.
  • Sun’s sense of timing is simply phenomenal. Watch throughout this bout as Popescu attempts a half advance into Sun’s preparation, and then the moment she picks up her front foot to recover back to en-garde, Sun is already launching a direct attack into her off balance opponent. And her disengages are [chef’s kiss] magnificent. Two points, she does a high feint, draws the parry, and keeps her tip so close to the guard for the final hit that Popescu can’t find her blade.
  • Sun played the one tempo game heavily here. On her 8 single touches, she went 1-tempo on 5 actions, 2-tempo on 2 actions. Popescu on the other hand, on her 7 single lights went 1-tempo one time versus 2-tempo 5 times. Popescu favored an 8-opposition lunge in closing, following her disruptive circular beats in preparation.
  • Sun’s favored action here was a lunge, which she hit 7 times. 5/7 lunges came with one tempo, the other 2 with two tempo. Popescu had a little bit of everything, with 2 lunges, 2 remises, 2 toe touches, and a fleche.

Touch by Touch Breakdown:

PeriodScorePoint ForHitDistance Initiated FromTemposType of ActionPoint Scored At:Time Between Touches
11-0 PopescuPopescuPopescu pulls to 2 meter zone, and both are kind of at a stalemate for who will initiate attack. On Sun’s half advance, Popescu takes a deep 8 opposition lunge, misses, and hits remise.B3Remise1:2694
12-0 PopescuPopescuPopescu pulls, and as Sun pressures, Popescu does a few light beat 8’s to rattle preparation. At close distance, Popescu goes for foot and hits remise for one light.A2Remise:5828
12-1 PopescuSunSun pushes with a higher tempo frequency in her footwork. As she pushes, Popescu does a few disruptive beats with half advance into Sun’s distance to threaten. On Popescu’s retreat, Sun does a high feint, draws the parry, and snipes Popescu under her hand on second tempo.B2Lunge:4612
12-2 TieSunPerfect timing from Sun. In the box, Popescu does a half advance to deceive distance, and as she picks up front foot to recover en garde, Sun explodes direct for one tempo lunge with disengage.B1Lunge:3610
13-2 SunSunFor the first time in the bout, Popescu pushes Sun, frequently beating Sun’s blade to create disruption and discomfort. On Popescu’s step forward, Sun hits a perfectly timed attack in preparation before Popescu’s arm even comes out.B1Lunge:0333
23-3 TiePopescuSun begins pushing again, but Popescu threatens more with beats and sudden steps into Sun’s advances. Popescu pressures slowly, and as Sun steps back into the box, Popescu explodes into a sudden low-high fleche for one light.B2Fleche2:1842
24-4 TieDoublePopescu pulls, and in Sun’s preparatory advance, she tries to search for 8 opposition lunge. Sun rolls off and counterattacks but Popescu sneaks in the double.B2Lunge1:5919
25-4 SunSunIn the box with limited preparation, once again, Sun goes for high feint, draws the parry, and finishes to the body for one light.B2Lunge1:527
25-5 TiePopescuPopescu pulls, and alternates between disruptive circular four and six beats. She goes for beat six, and then does an oppositional lunge and closes Sun out in 4.B2Lunge1:3220
26-5 PopescuPopescuSun pushes and collapses to close distance, but is hesitant to commit to a closing action here. This was weird, as Popescu starts a thrust, and Sun attempts to take her blade and somehow draws Popescu into her own foot.A1Toe Touch:5339
27-6 PopescuDoubleGood lord Popescu can cover length on her fleche. She pulls left of center, does a half advance with beat, and seems to hesitate for a quarter second before her YOLO instincts kick in, and she explodes into a fleche where Sun doubles her out.A1Fleche:458
37-7 TieSunPopescu pulls once again, and Sun is approaching at a much closer distance. Popescu does a preparatory beat in 4, then attempts to do a beat attack with lunge. She thinks she’s hit, it looks like, and Sun attempts to counterattack, misses, hits remise.B2Remise2:1743
38-7 SunSunPopescu attempts a flick and falls short, then breaks distance. She steps back into fencing distance with Sun, tries a preparatory half advance, and as she’s getting back en garde, Sun launches a perfectly timed lunge.B1Lunge1:5720
38-8 TiePopescuPopescu presses Sun with a little more urgency, frequenting her beats and the tempo of footwork. Just before Sun hits her two meter zone, she does a powerful stationary beat, and then transitions into an advance lunge with high feint and then finishes with hit to the leg.B2Lunge1:2631
39-9 TieDoubleDouble P-RedN/AN/AP-Red:2660
310-9 SunSunPopescu tries to do a beat 8 and then finish with lunge, she falls short, and while standing up in recovery, Sun launches a lunge at her for one light.B1Lunge:1214
310-10 TiePopescuFor someone with a lead with 12 seconds left, Sun goes very aggressive here, pushing Popescu in the box, then backing away to kill the clock. As she retreats towards 2 meter zone, Popescu binds in 6, holding the blade high. As Sun releases and retreats, Popescu does a simple disengage and hits to the foot.A2Toe Touch:039
Priority11-10 SunSunPopescu gets priority. Sun pushes slowly, keeping a larger distance. She pauses on a dead tempo, and Popescu thinks the opportunity is there for her 8 opposition lunge. Sun responds by attacking to low line and closing her opponent out in 8 to win!B1Lunge:5010

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