Photo gallery: Norwich’s Anna Bentley hoping for more team spirit at London Olympics on Thursday
Norwich fencer Anna Bentley admitted she was “gutted” not to make it out of the opening round of her London Olympics individual campaign – but that team glory was always the real target.
The Bergh Apton fencer’s one fight in the individual foil at Excel was a thrilling affair, as Bentley came back from 7-4 to lead with just seconds left – only for Canadian Monica Peterson to force extra-time.
And while Bentley thought she had won it, the judges decided her score did not count – and moments later Peterson had recorded a lunge of her own to win in sudden death. But despite Saturday’s disappointment, Bentley’s Olympics is far from over. Team GB will compete in the women’s team foil on Thursday alongside Natalie Sheppard and Sophie Troiano – who faced off against each other in the round of 64.
“That’s the thing in judge sports, you have got to live with their decisions,” conceded Bentley. “I felt it was mine and she probably thought it was hers. I would like to see it again, but that’s sport.
“For me I was treating today like a bonus and just trying to come through all this crazy set-up here with people going nuts and all the admin and things to go through – much more than normal.
“So I just wanted to not put any pressure on myself and try to keep it as normal as possible and keep to my routine. I shouldn’t be here on my world ranking to do the individual foil, so it was just a bonus.
“Sometimes you wish you lose 15-1 and you never had a chance, than losing by one touch. But I do this sport and I know this happens. There are no guarantees so you just try your best on the piste.
“And the crowd was great. It was intense and I could even recognise some of the voices from the crowd as well. So it’s all cool. It was brilliant. Where else would I be wanting to compete in the Olympics other than London? So it has been fantastic.
“I’m really gutted that I didn’t get through to the next round but my focus has always been more on the team – and that’s been difficult with Natalie Sheppard and Sophie Troiano fencing each other in the individual, because the last couple of days the dynamic has not really been there.
“I just hope when we’re finished with this, whatever happens, we will get together and get strong enough as a team for Thursday.”
Carrying a big height advantage, the Norwich left-hander started well to take a 3-1 lead, only for Peterson to work her way back. Bentley’s deficit was 7-4 heading into round two, and while she took the second three minutes 2-1 it was a cagey affair.
In the final round, two early counters reduced the arrears and just as the crowd started to sense Bentley’s challenge was faltering, she produced three more to take a dramatic 9-8 lead with just three seconds remaining to send the arena to its feet.
But from there it was heartbreak, as Peterson maintained her sharp form to equalise with only one second remaining.
And while Bentley carried priority into the one minute of sudden death – meaning she only needed to stop her opponent scoring to win – Peterson got what she needed to progress.
That was only moments after the judge ruled Bentley’s own score was not to count, much to the displeasure of the home crowd and officials.
Peterson was knocked out in the next round, while Italy saw Elisa di Francisca beat compatriot Arianna Errigo in the day’s medal final.
But the crowd belonged to the Brits – as it will do across the London Games.
“I just wanted to bring it slowly back and with every hit, even when I was down I just kept believing – and when you’ve got the crowd behind you as well, it just keeps you on it,” added Bentley, who hopes to raise her game for the team event.
“We just want to fence as best as we can. I fenced here well for two periods and I didn’t fence well in one period, so I want to fence well in every fight – and then if we all perform to how we know we can perform then the result will take care of itself and we will be all right.
“Before that I will get to see friends and family at Team GB House on Sunday who I haven’t seen for about a month, so that is like a little treat.
“I just want to move on from this as quickly as I can. Obviously do the analysis, do the review, what I should have done better, what I can learn from – and then come together with the team, which is going to be much better walking around with the girls than just on my own.”