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Olympic Watch - Fencing: Upsets and Controversy as Fencing Finishes

Dateline: 29 September 2000

Unknowns rise to the occasion, and team matches end in drama.


Russia slashed its way to the gold medal in men's team sabre Sunday, defeating France 45-32. Stansislav Pozdniakov, who was expected to dominate the individual competition but failed to medal, won all of his three bouts, including a dramatic fight against French world champion Damien Touya. At 44-32, with just one more hit to go, Touya went down with an ankle injury. After a 10 minute break to bandage the ankle, the match continued, with Pozdniakov needing just 3 seconds to waltz over to the hobbled Frenchman for the match-winning point.

In individual sabre, Romania's Mihai Covaliu took the gold over Mathieu Gourdain of France. Thai-born German sensation Wiradech Kothny took the bronze.


Upstart China challenged France in the men's team foil competition, finally losing 45-44 in a closely-contested match. China's silver medal was their first medal in men's fencing, marking their arrival onto the world fencing scene. France's Jean-Noel "Enzo" Ferrari, who was bested by Russian Dmitri Chevtchenko in the individual foil bronze medal match, pulled France out of a 37-34 deficit.

The men's individual foil competition was topped by the surprising South Korean gold medallist, Kim Young-ho. Kim bested Ralf Bissdorf of Germany, a former European champion, bronze medallist and former world champion Dmitri Chevtchenko of Russia, and three-time world champion Sergiy Golubytsky of the Ukraine on his way to capture the gold.

The women's team foil competition was not without controversy, as the United States team lost the bronze medal match to Germany on a pair of contested penalty hits. Ann Marsh of the United States was penalized for covering the target area in the final bout of the match, drawing a penalty which meant a score for the opposition--and the end of the match.

Women's individual foil was relatively uneventful, with Italian policewoman Valentina Vezzali triumphant over Germany's Rita Koenig. Vezzali's teammate Giovanna Trillini took the bronze.


Men's team épée ended with a heated match between perennial fencing powerhouses Italy and France. Italy, winning the gold 39-38, had a large and vocal crowd in attendance, cheering hits and protesting penalties. Bronze medal-winning team Cuba bested South Korea, 44-43. Although South Korea's Lee Sang-Ki won the bronze medal for individual épée, he wasn't able to pull his team up enough for victory.

In the individual épée gold medal bout, Russian Pavel Kolobkov defeated France's Hugues Obry, 15-12. Kolobkov is now ranked second in the world.

The Russian team also walked away with the women's team épée gold medal, trouncing Switzerland. Newcomer China came back from a seven-point deficit to drop multiple world champion Hungary in the bronze medal match, winning their first Olympic team fencing medal.

In the women's individual épée, favorite Laura Flessel-Colovic of France had to fight for the bronze medal after she was stopped by eventual gold medal winner Timea Nagy of Hungary. Nagy easily beat silver medallist Gianna Habluetzel-Buerki of Switzerland, scoring 15-11.

For more Olympics information, consult the following links:

En garde! Although fencers can sometimes look like big white spiders playing tag, this is a serious martial art, with a heritage of duels and medieval warfare. But don't think it just has merit for its historical value--Bruce Lee studied fencing for concepts to incorporate in his jeet kune do.

The "gentle way" of judo looks not so gentle, especially after a big throw that flips a player head-over-heels and smashes him to the mat. The first Asian martial art in the Olympic games, judo is one of the few sports that allows you to choke your opponent until he or she surrenders.

Tae kwon do makes its debut as a full medal sport at the Sydney Olympics. Noted for its complex and fast kicks, tae kwon do is an exciting combat sport for men and women.

The best sites about the Sydney Olympics martial arts.

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