European fencing: James Davis targets further foil success

By Nick HopeBBC Olympic sports reporter
James Davis
British European fencing champion James Davis aims to defend his foil title in Switzerland this weekend.

Reigning European fencing champion James Davis believes defending his crown will be "harder" than claiming the title for the first time last year.

Davis became Britain's first-ever European foil gold medallist in 2014 and is currently fourth in the world rankings.

The London Olympian is part of a 10-strong GB team competing in Montreux, Switzerland, from 5-11 June.

"Everyone wants to beat me and take my ranking," Davis told BBC Sport.

Davis benefitting from US switch

"You do get more respect after winning a major title, but people do their homework on you and watch you more, so it gets harder."

British Fencing unveiled their new UK Sport-backed Elite Performance Centreexternal-link in London last month, which will house the country's best athletes.

Davis believes it will be a "huge boost" to his GB team-mates and other young talent, but feels his development is best served in the USA.

He swapped London for San Francisco in November 2013 and trains alongside World Championship medallists Gerek Meinhardt and Alexander Massialas.

"I initially went over there for a two month trial to see how the club system worked and I fell in love with it," he said.

"The (British) federation have been brilliant in supporting my move and getting to spar with the American fencers has really pushed me on, so it's win-win."

European Fencing Championships - Team GB's squad
Women: Epee Individual- Corinna Lawrence; Foil Individual - Natalia Sheppard;
Men: Foil Individual and Team - James Davis, Laurence Halsted, Richard Kruse, Marcus Mepstead; Sabre Individual and Team - Soji Aiyenuro, Alex Crutchett, James Honeybone, Curtis Miller

The 2015 Europeans and the Moscow World Championships in July both provide the opportunity to collect valuable points for the Rio Olympics, with the qualification period ending on 4 April 2016.

Whilst performances in the team events will be important, Davis can qualify outright individually by ranking in Europe's top two - a standing which would be calculated once those who have qualified for the team event were removed.

"Winning the Euros was a major thing that I wanted to achieve and it's great to do it at a young age, but it doesn't stop there," added Davis.

"I want to be on that stage with the best in the world all of the time, at the World Championships, the Olympics and be the number one."