Wellington fencer Ping Yuan has been nominated for the Rio Olympics.

She won a qualifying place by finishing second in the foil discipline at the recent Asia/Oceania zonal qualifying event in Wuxi, China.

Ping is a former Chinese Olympic representative and Commonwealth foil champion.
She is likely to know whether her nomination has been successful by the end of May.

New Zealand's fencing link with the Olympic Games is small, but that could be about to grow in Rio.

Wellington fencer Ping Yuan has won one of three available spots in finishing second at the Asia/Oceania zonal qualifying event in Wuxi, China.

Advertisement

Papers have been prepared for the New Zealand Olympic Committee to consider her case.
If Ping, 34, wins selection, she'll be just the second New Zealand woman fencer and fifth overall to make the Olympics.

The last athlete to make the Games was Jess Beer, who was 33rd at Athens in 2004.

New Zealand's most successful Olympic representative was Martin Brill, who finished 15th and seventh in the epee class in 1984 and 1988 respectively.

The most versatile was Brian Pickworth, who competed in all three disciplines, the epee, foil and sabre in 1960 in Rome, while Gavin McLean was 45th in the epee in 1992 in Barcelona.

Ping has already competed at an Olympics. She was part of the Chinese team which finished eighth in Athens, has won bronze at a world championships and gold at an Asian championships. Her ranking got as high as No 40.

But fencing in China is a vastly different business to New Zealand. Funding and competitive opportunities are leagues apart.

Having moved to New Zealand eight years ago, Ping, who has been fencing for about 20 years, is relishing the prospect of returning to the Games, with her second country.

The individuality of fencing means, unlike many other sports, the spot she's won is not transferable. If Ping doesn't get selected, no one else will fill that spot.

There are subtle differences in the three types of fencing but Ping has only competed in the foil. The Chinese system meant specialising.

Ping, who came from Shanghai, calls the epee a weapon which requires intelligence from the athlete.

She was a professional in China, but has sailed under the radar since moving to New Zealand. She works as a fencing coach, for both the Wellington club and the high performance club in Auckland.

Funding is essentially down to her by contrast to the hefty amount of support and financial aid available in countries where fencing has a higher profile.

Should Ping's application be accepted by the NZOC selectors, she'll be looking for more international competition to help preparations for Rio, and funding to get there.

''What I need to do is get more financial support," Ping said.

''In New Zealand it is not a good level for me to keep up a high standard. I have to do more international competition before Rio, because I need to get more ranking points."

If all goes well, Ping hopes the fact she's off the International Fencing Federation radar may help her. Seven of the top 12 foil places are held by European fencers.

''I would be a surprise (for some rivals). Some people know about me and would say 'oh, you've come back'.

''But for other countries, they're much younger than me so don't know about me, just that I come from New Zealand and have no ranking and (they'd think) I would be a piece of cake," she laughed.

Ping, coached by her husband Zuming Xu, won the Commonwealth foil title in Melbourne in 2010. Clearly she has class, but precious few chances.

Fencing New Zealand president Iain Perry appreciates what a successful bid for Ping would mean for the sport, which has about 500-600 active members.

''It would be fabulous boost for a small, struggling sport," he said.

''We've just put a new five to 10-year growth strategy (in place). And to get a cherry on top would be a fabulous fillip for the growth of the sport."