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The favorite is doing well in the derby – sixty-year-old Bence Szabo

The favorite is doing well in the derby – sixty-year-old Bence Szabo

Sixty-year-old Bence Szabo is a two-time Olympic, world and European fencing champion.

After his professional career, 60-year-old Bence Szabo also worked as a sports director in several places (Photo: Heidi Tombasz)

He trained at the classical school, and in 1974 he started fighting with László Jakab at his old club, Újpesti Dózsa, and for two years he worked only on footwork. This is unthinkable nowadays, and it is also a matter of luck who can achieve this with which teacher. At the age of seventeen, he joined the group of the legendary Chapa Zarande – without exaggeration, it was a meeting of a lifetime.

Thanks to the fact that the master was able to renew himself regularly, he also believed that the world consists not only of fences, but also of the small and great joys of life. This basic situation was ideal for Beatus Pence Szabo, an example of which is the fact that when Zarandi had only four students after his first heart attack, he was among them. And also Imre Gedővári and László Csongrádi – with them and also with Imre Bujdosó and György Nébald, he reached the summit for the first time in 1988 in Seoul.

That Olympic final against the Soviet Union will be forever memorable. The Hungarian national team reached 8:8 after 4:8, that is, from a hopeless situation, and became the champion in goal ratio. Twenty-eight years later, I was born on the Olympic Golden Sword team, and the joy was truly immense. By the way, Pence Szabo finished with three wins in the final. Of course, there is no coincidence, as the Népsport website explained before the games that “against the biggest competitor, the Soviet team, the team will achieve the three victories almost as planned.” In Seoul, he was not at peace with the dirt (“It’s too monotonous, and not all the food is delicious…”), otherwise you could have caught a bird with him.

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After that, he yearned for individual success, and he hoped to best achieve this in 1991, at the World Championships in Budapest. He later said it didn’t work out, he fought like an amateur. He (also) believed that when he fought against Polish-turned-German Jacek Hochowajda, he was quite (and justifiably) annoyed by the fact that the Polish judge was the master of their trial.

Then he gathered his strength, and in a team (with Peter Abay, Bogduso, Nibald and Kassaba Koves) the Hungarian sword became master of the world once again. Pence Szabo won three “mandatory” victories this time and, incidentally, also defeated individual gold medalist Grigory Kiriyenko in the final against the Soviet Union.

He was hurt because he did not succeed as an individual, and he felt that there were (also) psychological reasons, so he worked hard before the Barcelona Olympics (1992). And then in the games… He fought in a way that made the experts swoon, but even the local spectators who weren’t quite old enough for sword fighting felt like there was something in the air. In Pashtun, first there is drama, then ceremony. In the semi-finals, he fought a tense battle with Italian Giovanni Scalzo, to whom he had previously lost. Not now, thanks to the fact that he didn’t tolerate controversy after all.

Next came the final against Marco Marin. Once on the paddock, Pence won first place. Then, before he knew it, our son was leading 4:0 – and was one stroke away from the gold medal. (…) Pence started, got up – and cut off. Olympic gold!” – that was the coverage, and the teacher Zarande: “His will, his ability to fight, and his leadership have been there for years. Now, in addition, he has also demonstrated amazingly beautiful technical and tactical wealth,” followed by the most important sentence: “This is the pinnacle of my life’s work…”

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A year later, at the World Championships in Essen, he won a silver medal behind Kiriyenko, but his fencing did not go well in the team’s first matches. But in the final, during the 9:4 victory over the Italians, “we finally saw the real Pence Szapo in Bast, who combines heart, technique and routine” – this is how his fellow world champion Joseph Navarrete summed up the coverage: “In vain, well, the saying is true: the candidate “The favorite should do well in the derby.”

He was still there at the Atlanta Olympics (1996), as (also) the flag bearer, and walked off the stage with team silver.

After that, he did his work as a sports leader (Újpest TE, Fencing Association, MOB), and in 2016 he was elected to the Hall of Fame, where Aladár Gerevich, Rudolf Kárpáti and Pál Kovács are among our fencers.

Good company.

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