Fencing: Gascon claims epee gold
Updated: Wednesday, 01 Aug 2012 21:09
Venezuela's Ruben Limardo Gascon has won the Olympic gold medal in the men's fencing individual epee.
Venezuela, a country of nearly 30 million people, has only its second Olympic champion ever - and first since 1968.
Limardo joins light-flyweight boxer Francisco Rodriguez in their very exclusive hall of fame.
The world number 13 sparked scenes of unbridled joy among the South American nation's small contingent in the packed arena after beating Norway's Bartosz Piasecki 15-10.
"I've demonstrated that Venezuelans have got talent. I don't know what to say, I'm just speechless," Limardo said.
Seth Kelsey had hoped to be the first male fencer ever to win Olympic gold for the United States, but the world number 20, having knocked out top seed Nikolai Novosjolov in front of the Estonian Prime Minister Andrus Ansip, lost both his semi-final to Limardo and third place contest in sudden death to South Korean Jung Jinsun.
Venezuela have only ever won 12 medals of any colour in total. It is now two gold, two silver - both also in boxing in 1976 and 1980 - and eight bronze.
Limardo, who put out world number five Max Heinzer in the last 16 and then Italy's reigning world champion Paolo Pizzo in the quarter-finals, was conceding eight inches in height to the 6ft 5in Polish-born Piasecki.
But that did not matter as he raced into a 14-6 lead. He then lost the next four points, but finally made it.
"I came here to get a gold medal and I dedicate it to my country," he added.
"My goal is to reach my dream, to be an Olympic champion, and that's what I set for myself when I was a child."
Britain did not have any competitors in the event, but the day also saw the women's sabre and a desperately disappointing week for the home squad - not one of the 10 made the last 16 - continued with Sophie Williams and Louise Bond-Williams losing their first-round contests.
Williams, only 21, was crushed 15-6 by Italy's world number six Irene Vecchi and 30-year-old Bond-Williams, in her second Games, lost 15-8 to fourth-ranked Vassiliki Vougiouka, from Greece.
Both those results were expected, but American Mariel Zagunis's semi-final defeat was not - and it was even more of a shock given that she led South Korean Kim Jiyeon 12-5.
Zagunis, her country's flag-bearer at last Friday's opening ceremony, was the champion in Athens and Beijing - indeed the only winner the recently-introduced event has had - and was on a 12-match unbeaten run.
But amazingly she lost 10 of the last 11 points and then suffered defeat again in the bronze medal match to Ukraine's Olga Kharlan 15-10.
Kim completed her dream night when she beat Russia's world champion Sofya Velikaya 15-9 for the gold medal.
Meanwhile, late last night fencing's governing body announced that heartbroken Korean Shin A Lam will receive "a special medal" after she felt she was robbed of a proper one in the women's epee.
The medal will be for "aspiration to win and respect for the rules," said the International Fencing Federation in a statement.
But Shin admitted "It does not make me feel better because it's not an Olympic medal.
"I don't accept the result because I believe it was a mistake."'
Shin was speaking back at the ExCeL Arena, scene of the biggest controversy of the Games so far at the end of her semi-final with Germany's 2008 Olympic champion Britta Heidemann.
The 25-year-old was in floods of tears and stayed on the piste for over an hour while arguments raged about the result, but her defeat stood and she then lost the bronze medal match as well.
Shin thought she was through to the final when the clock went to zero, but Austrian referee Barbara Csar then ruled there was actually still a second left, during which time Heidemann scored.
Korean Olympic Committee president Park Yung-Sung revealed today the FIE had made the offer of a consolation prize and recognised that they had acknowledged that "you can have human error."
He added: "They know they are very sorry about her and they have to recognise her sporting spirit."
The FIE said they had, as yet, no confirmation of the date or place of the medal award ceremony.
The Korean team's protest was rejected this morning and Park also said: "They cannot make a new decision after rejecting our appeal, but they are sorry and sympathise with Shin so they want to recognise her in the spirit of the Olympics.
Shin, who said through an interpreter that she had slept for only about two hours last night, could still win a "real" medal in the team event on Saturday - and could face Heidemann once more in the final.
Park blamed the timing system for the incident, claiming it was not accurate enough.
"They have never experienced this before with three attacks in the last second. Their timekeeping machine only has seconds, not fractions of a second. It cannot handle a situation like yesterday. That they admit."
In their written appeal the Korean team had said: "I can't agree with the decision of the referee. Who can believe this situation? The Korean team cannot accept this situation."
But an official statement issued in response read: "It is for the referee to decide how much time remains. The referee confirmed the last hit. Neither the DT (the technical director) nor the refereeing delegations can change a question of fact. The DT decides to reject the protest."
Meanwhile, Park confirmed that the Korean team had accepted an apology from their Swiss counterparts after footballer Michel Morganella was expelled from the Games for directing an allegedly racist insult at South Koreans on Twitter.
The 23-year-old defender was sent home after posting the message in the wake of his team's 2-1 defeat to South Korea on Sunday. Morganella has also apologised and his Twitter account has been deleted.