Religious fencer wins medal on Shabbat
Yuval Freilich, who petitioned against playing on Saturdays, wins bronze medal in world championship after competing on day of rest
Bronze medal exceeds Shabbat? Fencing champion Yuval Freilich, who made headlines when he forced the Fencing Association to avoid holding fencing matches on Shabbat, marked his greatest achievement on Saturday, ranking third in the World Championships in Fencing, held on the one day he previously refused to compete on.
Fifteen-year-old Freilich, who faced older contestants in the Cadet men's epee event held in Baku, Azerbaijan, was made to compete on Saturday, and showed excellent capabilities as early as the preliminary stage, when he won 4 of 5 events.
At the nock-out stage, Freilich defeated Mexican contestant Mauricio Lara 13:15, bested German contestant Jens Frohnmuller 11:15, overcame Italian Marco Fichera 13:15 and made it to the semi-finals after defeating Czech contender Martin Rubes 9:15.
After securing his medal, Freilich held a close match against German fencer Nikolaus Bodoczi, surprisingly refereed by Iranian Alireza Poursalman. The young Israeli champion managed to tie the score at 14:14 eight seconds before the end of the match, but eventually lost the match and had to settle for the bronze medal.
Freilich is considered one of Israel's biggest promises in the Olympic sport and was selected by Ynet as one of the top ten promising athletes under 20.
Freilich, who lives at the settlement of Neve Daniel in Gush Etzion ranked 21st during last year's championship, and made great headway with his huge leap this year.
Two years ago, when he was only 13, Freilich and his father filed a petition to the High Court in order to obligate the Fencing Association not to hold matches on Shabbat, so that religious contesters can also participate in them. At the time, the young fencer said he doesn't know what he will do if he is forced to compete on a Saturday while in Europe.
This time, Freilich decided not to miss the rare opportunity, and the result – a medal at the largest fencing event in the world for his age group.
Other Israelis also participated in the championship; competing in the Cadet men's epee event, Saar Hanina was ranked 32nd and Tal Shai ranked 49th. In the Cadet women's epee event Alona Komarov ranked tenth, while Dana Stralinkov finished in 24th place and Irena Levin ranked 27th.