Tunisian fencer Ines Boubakri looks for golden touch
Ines Boubakri is looking at the 7th NAS Ramadan tournament as a build-up event to glory in the Olympics next year. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Tunisian Olympic fencer Ines Boubakri is seeking an alchemist’s touch in helping her convert bronze into gold at the 2020 Tokyo Games.

Boubakri, who was one of the recipients of the prestigious Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Creative Sports Awards in 2017, is looking at the Seventh Nad Al Sheba (NAS) Ramadan Sports Tournament as one of her build-up events to glory in Japan next year.

Now 30, the Tunisian sees herself with one last chance of winning an Olympic gold medal following successive bronze medals — starting with the 2014 FIE World Championships in Kazan followed by the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics and the 2018 FIE World Championships in Wuxi.

“Honestly, I am fed up with winning bronze medals. It is now time to win some gold,” Boubakri told Gulf News on the sidelines of the foil competition at the NAS Ramadan Sports Tournament, being held at the Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club late on Sunday.

“I think this will be my year. For a long time, I have had to stay with bronze medals both in the Olympics and the World Championships. I need to believe in myself. Now it is time to correct this and bring home a gold medal.”

Married to fellow Rio fencing medallist Erwann Le Pechoux of France since 2014, Boubakri first represented the country of her birth at the 2008 Beijing Games where she lost her first preliminary round match to Chinese-born Canadian fencer and former Olympic gold medallist Jujie Luan 13-9.

Four years later, Boubakri showed a lot of promise while easing through the qualifying rounds with wins over Nicole Ross of the US and France’s Astrid Guyart. But she was stopped in the quarter-finals in an 8-7 sudden death win by three-time Olympic champion Valentina Vezzali of Italy.

However, she came through the ranks once again in Rio three years back before losing in her semi-finals to reigning Olympic champion Elisa Di Francisca of Italy to become the first Tunisian fencer to win an Olympic medal. Now ranked world No. 4, the steady progression through successive Olympic Games is not lost on her.

“I think my time starts now. Each tournament from here on is going to be an important part of my preparations for Tokyo 2020. That said, I need to qualify first, and then I need to start putting together a serious programme that will ensure I win that elusive gold medal,” she smiled.

Besides her on-court exploits, Boubakri also cherishes her role of projecting Arab women in the right light. “That is already a lot of pressure for me, but I make sure it doesn’t put me down,” Boubakri said.

“In fact, I use this pressure to push me towards greater heights in my sport. People want more. I want more too. This can create fear and cause stress. Over a period of time I have learnt how to convert these elements to my advantage so that when I walk away from the court I am convinced that I have done my best. I want to have no regrets at the end of it all.”