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Page last updated at 12:01 GMT, Tuesday, 21 December 2010

British Fencing's performance director out in reshuffle


How British fencers struggled at the World Championships

British Fencing has parted company with its performance director, 19 months from the start of the London Olympics.

Graham Watts leaves with immediate effect after 10 years in the job. His replacement will be a group led by an as-yet unnamed "performance manager".

The new role is expected to be filled early in the new year.

Britain's fencers failed to threaten the podium at the World Championships but will hope for better in next year's European Championships in Sheffield.

The British men's foil team are considered GB's best chance of a fencing medal at London 2012, with an Olympic bronze medal their target.

But they underperformed at the Worlds in Paris last month, finishing eighth in the absence of top-ranked Briton Richard Kruse, who had a fractured bone in his foot.

And the end-of-year shake-up is a sign that British Fencing feels the need for urgent change, with time running out to turn the foil team into a medal-winning force ahead of 2012.

In a statement, British Fencing said its directors had "voted unanimously to bring substantial changes to our elite fencing programme in preparation for the London 2012 Olympic Games".

Watts had admitted in the wake of the Worlds that the British team had to improve.

Graham Watts
Watts led the British Olympic fencing team at Beijing 2008

"We were expecting more of our men's foilists but most of the damage was done off the piste, Richard Kruse breaking his foot and Ed Jefferies too ill to fence," he told the BBC at the time.

"Our big problem in Britain is we haven't got much strength in depth. Richard Kruse is our only world-class fencer and we're feeling his absence here."

Watts promised other fencers would develop before the Olympics, but British Fencing has decided to take the development of the team out of his hands.

Explaining the changes, its statement added that the programme would now be overseen by a performance management group working alongside the funding body UK Sport.

The team's current coaching and support staff will remain in place, pending an "immediate financial and performance review".

The next chance to judge the progress of the squad will come at the European Championships in July 2011, to be staged at Sheffield's English Institute of Sport, although the Olympic qualifying period begins in April.

The event is a dry run both for British organisers and for the team, who will gain valuable experience of competing in a major event on home soil 12 months out from the Olympics.

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see also
British foil team eighth in Paris
11 Nov 10 |  Fencing
GB fencers foiled at Paris Worlds
07 Nov 10 |  Fencing
GB fencers win Euro team bronze
22 Jul 10 |  Fencing
Guide to fencing
12 Oct 05 |  Fencing

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