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1976: Olympic Games Montreal

In 1975, according to the Irish Times, the IAFF (Irish Amateur Fencing Federation) nominated 3 fencers for the Montreal Olympic Games.  As in 1964 (Tokyo), 1968 (Mexico), 1972 (Munich), again for the 1976 Games, only fencers from Mr. P. Duffy's fencing club were put forward for Montreal. Lawrence Gough was not among them.

 

In 1975, Lawrence Gough was employed by an American company near Düsseldorf, West Germany. Gough submitted a list of 14 international fencing tournaments, which he wished to participate in, to the HR Director and requested permission to take his annual leave to facilitate this venture. Lawrence Gough was granted 28 days additional holiday to support his Olympic bid.

In 1975/76, Lawrence Gough realised that the only way he could prove beyond doubt that he was Ireland's leading epéeist was to compete in the same international tournaments (not home events) as the official Olympic nominees of the IAFF.

In April 1974, Gough competed in the Heidenheimer Pokal in West Germany and in March 1975, he was invited to compete in the "A" tournament - 15th Martini Rossi International - in New York. There were no other Irish fencers present at either of these tournaments.

In November 1975, Gough had learnt that the official nominees would be participating in Laon, France. This tournament was part of the French circuit and considered a qualifying competition for French fencers. Lawrence Gough travelled there, competed and got through to the direct elimination. There was only one of the Irish Olympic nominees present, accompanied by his coach. He was eliminated in the first round with 0 victories. This was the first international direct comparison.

In January 1976, Lawrence Gough competed in the "A" tournament - 25th Trophy Mario Sperafico - in Milan. He was the only Irish national to fence in this event. The Chairman of the IAFF, Robert Wilkes, although having agreed to enter Lawrence Gough for the event, decided not to put Gough's name forward for the competition. The Chairman of the IAFF telephoned an Irish fencing acquaintance of Gough's on the eve of the tournament informing him of his decision. Lawrence Gough had already left Solingen for Milan and did not learn of the IAFF's decision until he presented himself at the competition the next morning. The Italian organisers graciously permitted him to compete.

Letter 1976.02.07

In February 1976, Lawrence Gough was informed by the IAFF (s. Letter 1976.02.07) that regardless of any results he achieved, he would never be nominated by the IAFF because "it would not be in the best interests of Irish fencing" that he represent his country at the Montreal Olympic Games.

Despite this devastating blow, Lawrence Gough continued his mission.

In March 1976, he competed in the "A" tournament - Challenge Monal - in Paris and also in the "A" tournament - Heidenheimer Pokal - in Heidenheim, West Germany. He took part in numerous international tournaments in his quest for selection for the Irish Olympic Team: Antwerp, Birmingham, Brussels, Deurne, Dublin, Düren, Heidenheim, Laon, London, Milan, New York, Nivelles, Paris, Solingen and Verviers. Apart from the tournaments in Birmingham, Dublin and Laon, he never met an Irish fencer at any of these tournaments.

Gough believed that the only result that would be proof of his ability was a direct comparison which not only the IAFF, but also the Olympic Council of Ireland would have to recognise.

Easter 1976 saw Lawrence Gough competing in the Birmingham International Open. The 3 official Irish Olympic nominees were present. Two were eliminated in the 2nd round, the third was knocked out in the 3rd round - while Gough reached the final (5th round) and was placed 5th.

Lawrence Gough was confident that he had a just case to be included on any Irish Olympic Fencing Team. He had achieved better results than the Irish Olympic nominees both in Laon and Birmingham. These tournaments were considered by the IAFF to be qualification competitions for the official Irish Olympic nominees.

Lawrence Gough was Ireland's leading epéeist in 1976.

In December 1975, Lawrence Gough met Desmond O'Sullivan, Honorary Secretary of the Olympic Council of Ireland (OCI), and asked for advice. Desmond O'Sullivan made it quite clear that neither he himself, nor the OCI had the power to nominate any athlete for a place on the Irish Olympic Team. All national sports federations were autonomous. He gave Gough a copy of a letter (1975.09.02) that had been sent to all sports organisations. The OCI advised that there would be "no passengers" going to Montreal and only international results would be considered.

Because of the decision of the IAFF that Gough would never be nominated for an Olympic team regardless of any results he might achieve, he was forced to apply directly to the Olympic Council of Ireland for nomination to compete in Montreal. This application was turned down, as expected.

Desmond O'Sullivan suggested that Gough might appeal to the Fédération International d'Escrime (FIE). Gough took his advice and requested a meeting with Pierre Ferri, President of the FIE. This meeting between Ferri and Gough took place at the headquarters of the FIE in Paris in June 1976. Pierre Ferri stated that the FIE could not interfere with the internal national team nominational procedures of the IAFF.

In 1976, no Irish fencing team competed at the Montreal Olympic Games.

 

 

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