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By Daniel Bases
LONDON, Aug 2 (Reuters) - Italy beat Russia to take the women's team foil gold medal on Thursday, capping a spectacular run for the Italian team which has swept the individual medals.
The win over Russia by 45-31 demonstrated the sheer domination of the Italian team which boasts the world's first, second and fourth-ranked female foilists this season.
Russia's 31 points was the best any team could do against Italy on the day after they trounced a young team from Britain 42-14 and then France 45-22.
Team competition takes matches to a maximum of 45 points or whoever has more by the end of a nine-round rotation of bouts.
For Italian team anchor, Valentina Vezzali, who carried Italy's flag into London's Olympic stadium on Friday, the gold meant she surpassed her countrywoman Giovanna Trillini in the Olympic medal count in women's fencing with nine to Trillini's eight.
She already has more Olympic and world championship medals than any other woman in the sword sport. But it is the bronze medal she won on Saturday in the individual competition, snatching a victory just seconds from defeat at the hands of South Korea's Nam Hyun-Hee, that will motivate her for four more years.
"I am happy because I gave everything I could... The bronze gave me the energy and the will to go back to Brazil in four years and to tell myself no, this is not it, to go on," said Vezzali, who at 38 years old, wants to have a second child but not before a long rest.
Vezzali's record haul of six gold medals equals compatriot Edoardo Mangiarotti who has more Olympic fencing medals than anyone else, collecting 13 between 1936 and 1960.
Elisa Di Francisca, the individual gold medal winner from Italy, said the team's success meant the competition could not have gone better. The mass of Italian spectators were treated to the team's singing and dancing after the final touch by Vezzali.
"There was a lot of work behind it. But I like it and yes, of course I would like to have as long a run as Valentina," Di Francisca said. Rounding out the Italian team was world number one ranked Arriana Errigo and No. 16 ranked Ilaria Salvatori.
The Italian team substituted Salvatori for Errigo, so confident of their lead over Russia at 30 to 12, to ensure she too received a medal. She lost nine touches against Russia's No. 11 ranked Aida Shanaeva but the victory was still in hand.
Italian coach Stefano Cerioni said the team took a long time to get to this position.
"It is a challenge to take them here as individual athletes to compete against each other but also beautiful that they can then work together as a team," he said.
This Italian team of Di Francisca, Errigo and Vezzali are the only national female squad, across all three weapons of foil, epee and sabre, to sweep the individuals and take team gold in a single Olympic Games.
In the bronze medal match, South Korea knocked on the door of the world's fencing elite with a 43-32 win over France, marking the first team fencing medal for the Asian nation. (Reporting By Daniel Bases; editing by William James and Justin Palmer)