RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - At an Olympics marred by doping revelations and a meager medal count, Russia fought back on the fencing piste to their best finish in the sport since 1996.
Russia’s four golds, one silver and two bronze in fencing - their best sport in Rio after wrestling - gave fans something to cheer amid the worst Summer Olympics performance under the Russian flag since the collapse of the Soviet Union.
“We would like to dedicate this medal to the athletes who were not able to compete in these Games,” said Sofya Velikaya after her sabre team won gold, referring to dozens of compatriots banned for widespread doping.
The fantastic Russian fencing was remarkable in light of their two silver medals and a bronze in London, following just one gold in Beijing.
Hungary also impressed in Rio with two golds, a silver and a bronze - their best fencing since 1972 - thanks to veterans including 41-year-old Geza Imre, the oldest fencer to take an individual Olympic medal since 1952.
France rebounded from a 2012 drought as Gauthier Grumier, who lost his first match in London, took individual bronze and led his epee team to gold.
Despite fencing in four finals, powerhouse Italy came away with just one gold - their worst finish in over two decades.
The United States narrowly missed two shots at their first men’s fencing gold in more than a century, but two silvers and two bronzes highlighted a wealth of young talent.
Mariel Zagunis, the most decorated American fencer ever, took her fourth medal and second team bronze, inspiring teammate Dagmara Wozniak to look ahead.
“I can see why Mariel tried to win so many times,” said Wozniak. “It’s an awesome feeling, and I am just more geared up to try to repeat this in Tokyo.”
Reporting by Brad Haynes; Editing by Bill Rigby