The golden drought is over for France in fencing. One of the sport’s traditional powers won its first fencing gold medal since 2008, easily defeating Italy 45-31 in the men’s team epee final on Sunday at the Rio de Janiero Olympics. Yannick Borel wrapped the match up for France with a quick touch of opponent Marco Fichera. Borel ripped off his mask and let out a scream to celebrate.
Eight years is a long time for France to go without an Olympic fencing gold. “Just the happiest moment in my fencing life,” said Borel, a grin running from ear to ear. “You want to share this with your friends. They are screaming, you are screaming, too.” Until Sunday, the French team overall managed just a silver and bronze in fencing in Rio. They were left off the podium entirely at the 2012 London Games.
The shutout ended with a resounding victory at Carioca Arena 3.
Hungary won the bronze after beating Ukraine 39-37.
In the final, Borel seemed to let out eight years of frustration for French fencers with a yell in the direction of vocal fans waving the French flag and his teammates.
Later, Borel locked arms with teammates Daniel Jarent and Jean-Michel Lucenay, and the team jumped up and down in unison under the spotlights on the piste. Dance music filled the dimly-lit arena before the medal ceremony.
There was much to celebrate for France, which was ranked first in the world in men’s epee. The event wasn’t contested in London, but France had won the previous two golds in men’s epee, in Beijing in 2008 and Athens in 2004.
Still, a victory on Sunday wasn’t a lock, not against the third-ranked team in the world. Italy’s team included Enrico Garozzo, ranked second in the world.
“We came as a favorite, and they did their job with their performances here,” France coach Hughes Obry said through an interpreter about his team. “This is such a relief for them.”
Obry took over the program after London. Getting the team back to the top required tough training every day, he recounted.
Once Borel got to Rio, he focused only on looking ahead.
“Today, I didn’t look back,” Borel said. “I did this, and London is far away for me.”
France became the third country to win three straight golds in the men’s team epee event, following Italy and Hungary. It was France’s ninth Olympic title in the event, breaking a tie with Italy for most golds.
Men’s team epee wasn’t an event in 2012 because the sport’s international governing body has been rotating two team events out of the Olympics since Beijing.