Congratulations to Emese Szász of Hungary, who became Olympic champion in Women’s Épée last night. Szász defied predictions to claim gold in a 15-13 thriller against Rosella Fiamingo ITA.
Contesting her first Olympic Games, the 33-year-old Hungarian came to Rio as world number 7. Despite consistent performances over this Olympic cycle, Szasz had not tasted international gold since November 2014. Her path to the final included a 15-11 defeat of former world champion Beljajeva EST, Asian Games medallist Kang KOR, Sato JPN and Rembi FRA.
Rosella Fiamingo, by contrast, entered the competition as the bookies’ favourite: the Italian starlet, at 25, came to Rio following back-to-back World Championships in Kazan and Moscow. Even a comparatively shaky 2015-16 season left Fiamingo ranked 4th in the world. Fiamingo ended her 13-month absence from the podium at Rio. En route, Fiamingo knocked out English-born MacKinnon CAN, world #13 Kong HKG, double Asian champion Choi KOR, and finally Chinese team anchor Sun.
The gold medal final was a nervy, strategic display of Women’s Épée as both fencers sought to control the distance. Fiamingo looked unassailable in the opening phases, though Szász retained her composure to draw back to within a point by the first break. From a 6-5 lead, the Italian began the second period with four unanswered touches, denying Szasz control of the distance under the threat of Fiamingo’s signature wrist-hits. Szász mounted her second comeback of the match, unnerving the favourite in frantic bladework before delivering a lightening lunge hit to body. 30 seconds into the final period, the Hungarian drew level at 12. Forced to chase for the title, Fiamingo fell victim to Szasz’s height advantage and took two hits to wrist. The coup de grâce came in the form of a double hit, entirely on Szasz’s terms, taking the Olympic championship back to Hungary for the first time since 2004.