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June 11, 2004

Why nothing can foil Bartolillo

From: Sydney Morning Herald, Australia - Jun 11, 2004

By Anneli Knight
June 11, 2004

Being deaf would be considered a disadvantage for most athletes.

However, Frank Bartolillo, named in Australia's Olympic fencing team yesterday, regards his condition as beneficial. Bartolillo, 21, who has dominated fencing in Australia at a senior level since he was 16, said because he was deaf he was never distracted by crowd noise and so concentrated better than his opponents during bouts.

Bartolillo (foil), Evelyn Halls (foil) and Seamus Robinson (epee) were all named by the Australian Olympic Committee for the Athens Games.

Halls received a text message from Bartolillo yesterday. "He said he was really emotional and he could still hardly believe we were going to Athens," she said.

Halls, a 31-year-old Melbourne lawyer, said the three were excited, but not surprised, by being chosen.

"Selection is based on an international qualification system and a rolling ranking of the world cup competition," she explained. "At the end of March you knew where you stood, but it's nice to have it in black and white."

Halls represented Australia at the Sydney Olympics and was ranked 13th in the world. But she finished only 20th, after losing a point in extra overtime in the knock-out competition.

Australia has never won an Olympic medal in fencing but Halls is keen to change that and is confident she can do it after winning silver in two world cup competitions earlier this year in Paris and Prague. And when it comes to an Olympic medal, she is not fussy about the colour. "Gold, silver or bronze will do," she said.

Athens will be the first Olympics appearance for Bartolillo and Robinson.

Robinson, 29, who has a world ranking of 33 and is temporarily based in Italy, has been competing in a number of recent world cup events. "He is quite focused on improving his ranking before the Olympics," said Halls, who has been training closely with Robinson during the past few years.

Robinson was the under-17 world champion in 1991, has been Australian fencing champion and recently beat the world No.3 in a world championship event. "I think we're all in pretty good form," Halls said.

At the elite level, a broad age band - between 17 and late 30s - exists. So, Halls said, while younger competitors might have a physical advantage, "as you get older you get more cunning".

Copyright © 2004. The Sydney Morning Herald.