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Page last updated at 14:30 GMT, Sunday, 29 June 2008 15:30 UK

O'Connell ready for Beijing debut

Richard Kruse (left) and Alex O'Connell
Kruse and O'Connell were recently unveiled as Team GB's fencers

British sabre fencer Alex O'Connell believes he has the ability to justify his surprise qualification for the Olympics in Beijing this summer.

O'Connell, 20, forms one half of the GB team alongside Richard Kruse, who finished eighth in Athens.

"I don't like saying it's come four years early because that suggests I'm not ready," O'Connell told the BBC.

Kruse admitted he was "lucky" to obtain a reallocated place for Beijing, but said he could "go one rung further".

Speaking on BBC Radio 5 Live, O'Connell, from Cambridge, agreed his qualification for Beijing had been a shock.

"My qualifying tournament was out in Istanbul and was a very strange competition - there were nine entrants from nine different countries, and that environment only exists once every four years.

"I knew I was fencing well, I knew I had a good chance, and it was now or never - one fight left to go to Beijing.

"I was losing 14-13 but fought my way back into it and won on the very last hit, 15-14. That was quite an experience for me."

Kruse, who has reached the Olympics by virtue of receiving a place not taken up by another country, paid tribute to O'Connell's achievement.

"That qualifying tournament is horrible. If you have to fence in it, you have one day to produce the goods, and I've seen lots of fencers above me crack.

I thought I'd missed out this year - I came fourth and only the top three qualified, I missed out by one hit.

"But then I got a call saying pack your bags for Beijing, I'd been lucky enough to get one of the reallocated places that went around."

see also
Kruse added to GB fencing squad
26 Jun 08 |  Fencing
O'Connell secures lone GB place
08 May 08 |  Fencing
Team GB for Beijing
26 Jun 08 |  Team GB

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