TOKYO : Fencing has featured at every Olympics since 1896, yet at Tokyo 2020 it remained full of surprises over the course of nine days and 12 gold medals, with upsets, protests, and even a marriage proposal.
Cheung Ka Long beat previous gold medallist and favourite Daniele Garozzo to win the men's individual foil event, securing the first ever fencing medal for Hong Kong https://www.reuters.com/lifestyle/sports/fencing-champions-clash-quarterfinals-tokyo-2020-2021-07-26.
Underdogs Japan also beat top-ranked France in the quarter-finals of the men's epee competition, riding the momentum of their victory to claim the country's first fencing gold https://www.reuters.com/article/olympics-2020-fen-idCNL8N2P61F6.
"That's what you get at the Olympics... everyone's at their top level," said France's Romain Cannone after their loss to Japan.
Politics also entered the fray.
Race Imboden of the U.S. men's foil team protested against the IOC's ban on athletes making political gestures on the podium by marking his hand with a black X mark during the medal ceremony https://www.reuters.com/lifestyle/sports/fencing-us-fencer-imboden-says-x-mark-hand-was-protest-against-olympic-charter-2021-08-04.
"I also wish to draw attention to the hypocrisy of the IOC, and all of the organizations who profit so immensely off the athletes and have yet to hear their call for change," he said in a subsequent Twitter post.
There was romantic drama as well.
Although knocked out of the competition early, Argentinian fencer Maria Belen Perez Maurice's woes went out of the window after her coach and partner of 17 years Lucas Guillermo Saucedo held up a sign asking for her hand in marriage https://www.reuters.com/lifestyle/sports/fencing-for-argentinas-perez-maurice-an-olympic-loss-marriage-proposal-2021-07-26.
Perez, who had turned down a marriage proposal in Paris from Saucedo 10 years ago, this time said yes.
"I forgot everything, you know?" she said, beaming. "I said yes, of course."
(Reporting by Sakura Murakami; Editing by Toby Davis)