With increased popularity and a rise in the competition level of fencing in Japan in recent years, the battle to secure spots for next year’s Olympics in Tokyo will not be easy.

So the participating local fencers will definitely be fired up to perform better against some of the sport’s elite athletes at the FIE World Cup Tokyo meet.

The two-day men’s foil event kicks off on Friday at Minato-ku Sports Center. The individual competition is set for Friday and Saturday, while team matches are scheduled for Sunday. The winners will be given the Prince Takamado Trophy.

Guided by the leadership and initiatives of two-time Olympic medalist Yuki Ota, who took over as the president of the Japan Fencing Federation in 2017, the sport’s national governing body has attempted to showcase some of its events, bringing in more entertainment to attract fans. For example, the federation hosted the national championship at Globe Tokyo, which usually serves as a theater, in December.

Nobusuke Miyawaki, the federation’s secretary general, said that the organizers hope the audience will enjoy the competition between Japanese athletes and elite-level international fencers up close at the Tokyo meet. There is no admission fee for the event.

“This Prince Takamado Trophy is such a special event because this is the only one that we have some of the top fencers of the world,” Miyawaki said at a news conference at the venue on Thursday. “So it will offer a little different mood from the national championship, in which the entertainment aspect was one of the biggest features. This event will offer the fans occasions to see the world’s highest level of competition.”

Kyosuke Matsuyama, who is currently ranked No. 1 in the country and is 35th in the world rankings, expressed growing confidence that he’s built through international competitions in recent years. The 22-year-old is certain that he will face pressure to perform well at the international tourney in his hometown, but hopes to come up with better results, using the confidence and experience he has gained.

“I believe that there will be so many fans coming, and we want as many people as possible to see us compete,” said Matsuyama, who has served as the men’s national foil team captain since 2016. “But it’ll be important for us to show our fighting attitudes. Both in the individual and team competitions, I would like to show my performance as a fighter. So I want to try to focus on my performance, not thinking of too much on everything else.”

At the World Cup Tokyo meet, some of the best of the best will take the piste, such as Daniele Garozzo of Italy, who captured the individual gold at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics. Italy’s Alessio Focconi and Britain’s Richard Kruse, who are ranked Nos. 1 and 2, respectively, will also compete.

Yusuke Fukuda, the developmental director of the Japan Fencing Federation, said that the Olympic trials will start in April and that representatives will be selected based on their world rankings.

“We would like (our fencers) to closely compete international as well as domestically, and get in the Olympics,” Fukuda said.

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