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2012 Men's Olympic Foil: Even Early Round Entertains

Yahoo Contributor Network

Olympic fencing in 2012 has been a thrill to watch. The full-contact, high-speed chess match is captivating to me.

While the glory of gold makes headlines, there was an early-round bout in men's individual foil that epitomized what draws me to fencing.

Andrea Baldini vs. Ryo Miyake

In the second round of men's foil, Italy's Andrea Baldini defeated Ryo Miyake of Japan by a margin of 15-6. The bout was far from a nail-biter, but the bout did spotlight what makes fencing so entertaining. Baldini came in ranked No. 14 in the world and favored over Miyake, and the score reflected the outcome I expected.

Contrasting styles

The joy of watching the bout was found in the differing styles. Miyake had a frenetic, almost boxer-like style. Miyake's feet seemed to be in constant motion, even as he stayed in place on the piste. He bounced and lunged. If fencing was judged on looking busy, Miyake may have taken the gold.

Andrea Baldini seemed far calmer through out the bout. His stance was firm and poised. He was almost motionless, foil stretched before him, almost daring his opponent to attack. Rather than feint with his foil, Baldini occasionaly used foot stomps to throw Miyake off while still maintaining his position. Baldini was masterful in his calm. Baldini often gave up right of way, only to score with a counter strike.

There was plenty of back and forth for such a lopsided win. Yet, it was those steely quiet moments of the Italian that drew me in to the match. I marveled at how he could seem so dominant even as he retreated from some of Miyake's most enthusiastic flurries. As the bout was well in hand, Baldini seemed ready to end it. He grew a little too aggressive and allowed Miyake to make the score 14-6. Then it only took a few seconds for Baldini to close it out.

The beauty of foil

Unlike saber's lightning flash scores, foil slows things down slightly and gives viewers a better understanding of strategies. This means that even virtual blowouts can be as captivating as 15-14 edge of your seat bouts. Feints are as important as lunges, and anticipation is just as essential as accuracy.

Matches like Baldini versus Miyake serve as a reminder that fencing was born of duels to the death. Where not getting hit was not only strategy but survival. Both competitors will live to fight another day, but for a brief moment they were graceful warriors. And I enjoyed every moment.

Christopher Beheler has followed the Olympics since 1984. Christopher became a fan of fencing after attending lessons for a stage play.

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