Baku, June 22, AZERTAC
Ukraine's world and Olympic champion Olga Kharlan, who is such a recognised figure in her native Ukraine that she has been involved in politics and modelling, takes on a young generation of rival fencers keen to make a name for themselves at the European Games.
The Ukrainian first made an impact in the sport as a teenager when she won a team gold medal at the Beijing Olympics in 2008. Now, as one of three fencers in the top 20 of the world rankings who will compete in the women's individual sabre, Kharlan will be seen as the top scalp to take when the fencing starts at the Crystal Hall on Tuesday 23 June.
She is likely to face serious opposition from Vassiliki Vougiouka of Greece, ranked ninth in the world, and Germany's Anna Limbach, ranked 19th, in the individual sabre to be decided on Thursday 25 June.
There are no qualification points for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at stake in Baku, but the women's individual epee has nonetheless attracted a good field including Romania's Simona Pop, bronze medallist at the European championships.
Romania's world no.2 and Olympic silver medallist Ana Maria Branza, and world no.3 Erika Kirpu of Estonia, are also in the field with eighth-ranked German Britta Heidemann and Ukraine's Yana Shemyakina, the world no.6, for the epee on the opening day.
"It is a strong field in my event," said Heidemann, the 2008 Olympic champion and 2012 Olympic silver medallist. "I haven't been able to train properly because of a foot injury in the last few weeks, but I have come here because I like being at multi-sports events."
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