The second day at the Carioca saw world number 1 Alexander Massialas USA denied the Olympic championship by 9th seed Daniele Garozzo ITA, ending a 20-year dry spell for his country in the Men’s Individual Foil.
Garozzo took an unexpected path to the final. After upsetting 2012 silver medallist Abouelkassim EGY 15-13 in the L16, Garozzo might have anticipated a tie against reigning world champion Yuki Ota JPN. Instead, the Italian put an end to the Cinderella story of this year’s Men’s Foil, knocking out hometown favourite Guilherme Toldo BRA. Bottom seed Toldo began the day by upsetting Rene Pranz AUT 15-14, then stunned the audience with a sensational 15-13 victory over Yuki Ota. Not content with just one giantslaying, Toldo went on to knock out Asian champion Cheung HKG by a conclusive 5-point margin. The Brazilian finally lost momentum in the quarter-final, beaten 15-8 by Garozzo.
A more conventional opponent awaited in the semi-final, in the form of reigning European champion Timur Safin RUS. Pundits predicted a tight match between Stefano Cerioni’s current and former protégés (following the Italian’s 2012 defection to the Russian coaching setup.) However, Garozzo looked untouchable, leaving Safin outclassed in a 15-8 landslide, to the obvious delight of current Italian national coach Andrea Cipressa. Cipressa will be a familiar face for many Irish foilists, who trained with him in a workshop at Dalkey earlier this year.
Massialas eliminated Essam EGY, Akhmatkhuzin RUS, and former European champion Avola ITA to reach the semi-final. In a thrilling day of foil, Massialas’ quarter-final against Avola was a particular highlight as the young American fought back from 14-7 down to 15-14 victory. However, the young fencer’s hopes of an all-American semi-final were dashed by four-time Olympian Kruse GBR, who knocked out Gerek Meinhardt USA to earn his own place in the top four. Massialas showed discipline beyond his 22 years to unravel the Londoner over three periods and win 15-9.
From the outset of the gold medal match, the contrast in fencing styles was striking: Garozzo fluid and composed, Massialas characteristically cagey. After trading hits up to 6-7, in the latter half of the first period Garozzo eked out a slender lead that forced Massialas on the offensive. However, applying the rushing, aggressive approach that brought Massialas back from the brink against Avola, the American played directly into Garozzo’s hands. Garozzo refused to be hurried, picking off point after point to close the first period 14-7 up.
It’s unsurprising, therefore, that Garozzo returned to the en garde line looking relaxed for the start of the second period. He was met by a doubly focussed Massialas, retaining the speed that had served him so well throughout the day but demonstrating far greater patience. Massialas sought another spectacular comeback, stealing back four points in twenty seconds before Garozzo sealed his place in Olympic history with a quarte riposte.
Though Italy’s women have claimed every Olympic foil championship since 1996, when Romania’s Laura Badea defeated a 22-year-old Valentina Vezzali in Atlanta, this is Italy’s first individual men’s title since that year: despite repeated glory in the team event, i Azzurri have failed to reach the top spot as individuals. The bronze medal went to Timur Safin RUS.