Italy won the bronze medal in the men’s team epee following a controversial protest that was greeted with anger from their Swiss counterparts on the penultimate day of the European Games.
In a dramatic match which came down to the final bout between Switzerland’s Michele Niggeler and Italy’s Marco Fichera, the Swiss scored a hit on his opponent’s torso halfway through the final minute of sudden death of the priority match after the scores were tied 38-38 at the end of normal time.
But as the Swiss team celebrated what they thought was their first medal of the Games, the Italians made an emotional and heated protest over the decision of the referee to end the match before the clocked had counted down to zero.
The official protest was later accepted by the delegate of referee’s commission after they found that the referee in question had indeed breached FIE rules by ending the match before time, which then resulted in a full re-match of the last minute.
Although both sides were now furious over the handling of the bronze medal match, it was Fichera who kept a level head and ultimately prevailed, as Niggeler desperately rushed down the piste in an effort to catch the Italian off guard, he lost consecutive points and consigned the Swiss team into fourth place.
Niggler later refused to talk to reporters, but team mate Bruce Brunold said: “In my opinion, it is unfair. We really felt we had finished the bout.”
“We were awarded priority and the referee said, ‘On one touch’. Michele made this touch and we shook hands and the bout was over. We were cheated. It is not fair. But it is the way it is.”
“It’s difficult for Michele, I know, but we just followed the rules,” said Fichera, who fences at the same club as Niggler.
“Michele told me to stay away from him right now and just let him think it all through by himself. I do understand that he is angry, but when he has calmed down, I think he will be alright again.
“So I feel sorry for Switzerland, but I’m happy for my team, for my coach, for the Italian fencing and for myself.
“But I am happy that I won the bronze medal.”
From Azerbaijan with love
Elsewhere, Russia’s Anton Chupkov completed the breaststroke double by adding 100 metre breaststroke title to his earlier gold in the 200 metres breaststroke at the Baku Aquatics Centre.
His victory Saturday was the 18th gold medal for the Russian contingent which has largely dominated the swimming events.
Chupkov swam his 100 metres final much in the same way as he did the 200 metres final, conserving his energy in the first half to stay in the front pack but avoiding leading the field, eventually turning in third behind Great Britain’s Charlie Attwood and Lithuania’s Andrius Sidlauskas.
But after a long and powerful pull-out at the 50 metre mark, much to his opponents’ surprise, Chupkov popped up in first place and then consolidated his lead in the second half by increasing his stroke rate to finish a bodylength ahead of Sidlauskas. He touched in a time of one minute 0.63 seconds, a world junior record.
“I am very happy for my family and friends. It is an incredible feeling,” Chupkov said. “What’s next? I want the senior world record.”
For a moment it seemed as if Sidlauskas would be able to challenge Chupkov, but in the end, the Lithuanian was forced to settle with silver clocking a time of 1:01.42 while Attwood took the bronze in a 1:01.71.
Earlier, Russia’s Polina Egorova had claimed her fifth gold medal of the Games by winning the women’s 100 metres backstroke.
Egorova, despite already winning four gold medals in other events, did not find the final as easy as her other victories and barely recovered from a poor start to power through the field in the last ten meres to win gold in a time of one minute 7.71 seconds.
“I didn’t think I would win. I thought I would be third,” said a shocked Egorova. “I don’t know, (I will celebrate through) sleep.”
By the last touch, Kamenova had managed to edge just ahead of Mahieu by touching in a 1:08.61 compared to the Frenchwoman’s effort of 1:09.02.
Image Credit: Serge Timacheff/FencingPhotos/FIE