- 06 Sep 1960
- Rome 1960
Local hero Delfino justifies star billing in fencing
Giuseppe Delfino had learnt to fence while working in the famous FIAT car factory in Turin, but the sport became much more than a hobby. Over the course of a sparkling career, he won six Olympic medals, four of them gold. However, the one that he won in Rome marked the pinnacle of his achievements.
Delfino went into the Games already established as one of the sport's great stars. He had competed at both the 1952 and 1956 Games, winning team gold in the epee on each occasion. He had also won an individual silver in 1956 and arrived in Rome ready to mount another medal challenge in both events.
He desperately wanted to win individual gold. In 1956, he had been just one touch away, finishing in second place after the barrage. And the fact that he was now appearing in front of a home crowd, made the ambition to win the team and individual titles even keener.
Delfino was by nature a relaxed fencer. He liked to watch, wait, bide his time and strike only when he felt secure. He would happily wait until a bout went into over-time, and then strike.
It was a tactic he used to good effect, and never more so than in the individual competition in Rome, where he was as sprightly and calculating as ever, easing his way into the final pool and eking out wins. Those included a crucial sudden-death defeat of his closest rival, Great Britain's Allan Jay. It was a result that forced a barrage to decide the destiny of the gold medal, with Delfino winning 5-2.
He did not have much time to savour that coveted individual victory as he had to return to action just three days later for the team event. Italy's team was immensely strong, with Olympic champions Edoardo Mangiorotti and Carlo Pavesi joining Delfino.
They faced their first tough test in the semi-final, against the Soviet Union. Delfino produced perhaps his finest burst of the Games, when he recovered from 4-1 down in one bout to win 5-4 in the closing moments, helping Italy to a 9-6 victory overall.
The final saw the Italians come up against Great Britain, which meant another encounter with Jay. This time, it was Jay who got the better of Delfino, but Italy still secured the overall victory by a scoreline of 9-5, giving Delfino his second gold of the Games.
Delfino returned to the Olympic stage four years later and won a team silver, but could only finish 17th in the individual event. After his retirement from competition, he remained involved in fencing as an administrator.