Russia’s fencers stormed back against France in the closing minutes of the Rio 2016 team foil final to clinch gold on 12 August, while the US men upset defending champions Italy for bronze, their first medal in the event since 1932.
Trailing to France through each of their first seven bouts, the Russian team surged into the lead with one match-up left thanks to Alexey Cheremisinov and Artur Akhmatkhuzin, who outscored their French counterparts 19-8 in just two of their bouts.
“It was the team spirit and our belief in ourselves,” said a delighted Cheremisinov. “It was magic!”
Akhmatkhuzin added: “We believed in our victory. Until the last touch has been made, you have not yet lost. The experience of previous years in similar situations played a role. This is sport, it can happen.”
The Russians have now collected six fencing medals in Rio, including three golds, their best performance since Atlanta 1996, which was the last time they won men’s team foil.
The bronze medal bout saw a reprise of one of the semi-finals in 2012, when the Italian foil team emerged convincing winners over a young US collective. Indeed over the years, the Americans had got all too used to suffering defeat against their more experienced European adversaries.
“When we were growing up, we’d face the Italians because we were one of the lowest ranked teams,” said US fencer Race Imboden. “They were number one so we’d always face them early. And we just got consistently crushed.
“So to come to the Olympic Games and not only fence them for a medal but to send them home without one… It’s symbolic in men’s foil,” he added. “This is bigger than us. This is something that US fencing has built together over years.”
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