Hungary were left celebrating after Emese Szasz won an unforgettable battle to strike gold in the women’s epee individual event on the opening day of action in Rio.
The Hungarian beat Italy’s double world champion Rossella Fiamingo 15-13 to claim glory. It was Hungary’s third women’s gold in Olympic fencing since 2000 and represented a remarkable comeback in the Games from Szasz, who had lost in the first round in London four years ago. “I'm very happy. I don't believe it at the moment, maybe in a few days (I will),” said Szasz. “I believed in myself and my fencing, and I did it. (I felt that I won) only at the end when I made the last touch.”
France came close to ending a long medal drought in Olympic fencing, but a breakout performance by 43rd-ranked Lauren Rembi came up short in the bronze medal match. Sun Yiwen's third-place finish helped Chinese fans forget the shock 15-8 loss by her team mate Xu Anqi, ranked first in the world, to Frenchwoman Marie-Florence Candassamy in her first bout. “I think it is an amazing day,” said Yiwen. “Whatever the result, I feel really happy to be here to compete in the Olympic Games. “This bronze medal really gave me more confidence. I have yet to get in contact with (parents and friends) because I don't want to be distracted, and they don't want to distract my attention, so I just like to keep to myself.”
Hungarian women are second only to the Italians in Olympic medals, but had not topped the podium since Tímea Nagy took back-to-back golds in the epee event in Sydney and Athens. France left the Games empty-handed four years ago in London for the first time since 1960 and the women's individual epee event extended their long wait. Rembi had looked medal-bound as she silenced the roaring Brazilian crowd to beat local favourite Nathalie Moellhausen in the quarter-finals. Moellhausen did, though, give the home crowd plenty to cheer on a memorable afternoon thanks to early victories over American Kelley Hurley and France's Candassamy. It was the best finish for a Brazilian woman in Olympic fencing.