RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Italy won their second fencing medal in as many days when Daniele Garozzo upset top-ranked Alexander Massialas in the final, stopping his shot at the first U.S. men’s fencing gold in over 100 years in a raucous arena on Sunday.
Britain’s Richard Kruse also came up short of an historic medal, falling to Russia’s Timur Safin in the bronze medal bout and letting the first British fencing medal since 1964 slip from his grasp.
The anchor of the best U.S. men’s foil team in memory, Massialas nearly made a quarter-final exit from Sunday’s individual tournament, slipping to an 8-14 deficit against another Italian, Giorgio Avola.
Seven straight touches put the American through to a semi-final with Kruse, but the magic eluded him when Garozzo also built an 8-14 lead at the end of the night.
“Unfortunately, you can only pull so many rabbits out of your hat, as he did in the quarter-final,” said three-time Olympic fencer Greg Massialas, father to Alexander and coach of the U.S. men’s foil team.
The win by 11th-ranked Garozzo, who had lost to Massialas three times since last year, helped to bring Italy even with China at the top of the overall medal count, totaling seven.
At several moments in the final, the American fencer turned to his father and coach with a shrug as the din of a rowdy Brazilian crowd broke down communication during the bout.
He was one of many fencers overcome by the crowd’s stomping, whistling and booing, which injected a measure of chaos into the traditionally genteel sport as they ignored organizers’ pleas for quiet.
“Cheering is cool. Jeering is not,” said an announcer over the loudspeaker in Portuguese, but the Brazilian fans carried on booing points against local fencers.
Their enthusiasm helped lift Brazilian Guilherme Toldo, ranked 66th in the world, to an astonishing upset of second-ranked Yuki Ota, 2008 silver medalist and 2015 world champion, in the Japanese fencer’s first match.
Toldo also beat Hong Kong’s Cheung Ka Long before falling to Garozzo, while his Brazilian team mate Ghislain Perrier came within a touch of toppling China’s third-ranked Ma Jianfei in the thunderous arena.
“This crowd gets into it, they’re playing along with the athletes,” said Toldo. “Obviously that makes a difference.”
It was the second quarter-final appearance by a Brazilian after Nathalie Moellhausen’s historic place in the last eight on Saturday, also boosted by the rowdy crowd.
Reporting by Brad Haynes; Editing by Rex Gowar