Dubai: A host of reigning and former Olympic champions will be in action when the Fifth MK Fencing Academy International Epee Cup 2016 is held at the Dubai International Academy in Emirates Hills this weekend.

To be held under the auspices of the UAE Fencing Federation with support from Gargash Enterprises, the fifth edition of the annual international competition has attracted a handful of top stars from across the world.

The championship was announced by Shaikh Salem Bin Sultan Al Qasimi, Chairman, UAE Fencing Federation in the presence of Abdul Rahman Falaknaz, Board Member, UAE NOC, Velichka Hristeva, Executive Committee Board Member of FIE and Ghazi Al Madani from Dubai Sports Council.

Included in the long list of stars are defending champion Sten Priintis, Nikolai Novosjolov and Japan’s Kazuyasu Minobe and Inochi Ito joined by South Korea’s 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic individual gold medallist Park Sang-young.

The women’s field has Ana Maria Popescu of Romania, Erika Kirpu of Estonia and the Japanese duo of Ayaka Shimookawa and Ayumi Yamada.

According to organiser Mihail Kouzev from the MK Fencing Academy, this year’s competition has attracted more than 200 participants from the UAE, the Middle East and other parts of the world. Competition will be held in two categories — the under-15 event for boys and girls on Friday [December 16] and the open contest for men and women on Saturday. The event will start at 10am on both days, and at the end of each day the two champions will be crowned.

Priintis won the men’s title last year with a hard-fought win against Novosjolov. “That win was definitely one of the highlights of my career. But this year it won’t be easy as there are some really worthy champions in the field,” Priintis said.

“But I am here to defend my title and I will do everything to keep my focus,” he added.

Novosjolov is a former two-time world champion, having won gold at the 2010 World Championships in Paris and later at the 2013 World Championships in Budapest.

The Asian onslaught will be led by Korea’s Park Sang-young, the gold medallist at Rio along with Japan’s two-time bronze medallist Minobe and Asian team gold medallist Ito.

In the women’s section, Popescu has made a name for herself with a silver in the epee at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the gold at the 2013 European Championships. She has also won the women’s epee World Cup series a record-equalling three times from 2007 to 2013 with 13 World Cup titles to her name so far.

Popescu’s challenge will come from the younger Kirpu — a bronze medal winner at the 2014 World Fencing Championships along with team gold medals in the 2013 and 2016 European Championships.