LONDON (Reuters) - Surprise package South Korea won their first Olympic men’s team sabre gold by beating Romania 45-26 on Friday with the silver medal winners also having unexpectedly reached the final.
After finishing no better than ninth in the last three world championships, South Korea fenced with confidence, dethroning two European powerhouses on their way to gold.
For a country where fencing is relatively unknown, the gold medal will help promote the sport, South Korea’s top sabre fencer and world No. 3 Gu Bongil said.
“Some people may think that we were not expected to win but we had faith in ourselves. We focused as individuals but we didn’t win any medals then so we gave it our all on the team,” said world No. 3 Gu Bongil said of his fellow gold medal winners.
Another motivation for gold was the controversial loss for teammate Shin A Lam in the women’s epee semi final.
The resetting of the bout clock in error resulted in a split second loss to Germany’s Britta Heidemann, denying the South Korean a chance for gold. After a dramatic 90 minute delay she finished fourth on the day.
“We felt very sorry for her and tried even harder to get a medal, not so much to comfort her but to try to make everyone feel better,” Gu said.
Shin has a chance for epee team gold on Saturday.
South Korean coach, Lee Wook Jae, said the program started preparing for London right after Beijing with an intent to develop its own techniques.
“It is Korean style. We worked very hard on footwork, to have speedy legs because our opponents are slower,” Lee said.
The men’s sabre win marked South Korea’s second team fencing medal at the London Games but its first ever gold. They won bronze in the women’s team foil on Thursday.
South Korea had previously defeated Germany 45-38, taking down world No. 1 Nicolas Limbach.
Next up were Italy, led by reigning world champion Aldo Montano, who were dispatched 45-37.
Montano, speaking after the match said his pulled groin muscle was feeling better with a bronze medal.
“I want to try for Rio (2016 Olympics) in four years, but I am not young. I am 33,” he said.
Italy earlier beat the powerful Russian team 45-40.
Russia’s coach, Christian Bauer, comes away with a disappointing Olympic Games, having previously shepherded Montano to individual gold in Athens and China’s Zhong Man to the top in Beijing.
His student, Nikolay Kovalev won the individual bronze.
Russia hired the Frenchman to try to rebuild its program after a fourth place finish in Beijing.
They repeated that result in London, although they entered the 2012 Olympics the top ranked team as reigning world champions in both 2011 and 2010.
Reporting by Daniel Bases; Editing by Ken Ferris