Olympic Fencing 2012: Hungarian Underdog Takes Men's Individual Saber Gold

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Men's individual saber at the 2012 Olympics had several favorites before the opening round of 64. Someone forgot to tell Hungary's Aron Szilagyi that he was not one of them.

The Hungarian faced down some of the best fencers in the world on his way to winning Hungary's first gold medal of the 2012 Olympics. The win has also rocketed Szilagyi into third in the world rankings.

The favorite falls early

Before the competition began, Germany's Nicolas Limbach was heavily favored to win. Ranked No. 1 in men's saber, Limbach fell to Russian Nikolay Kovalev in the quarterfinals. Kovalev would go on to represent Russia's strong contingent in the men's individual saber by winning the bronze.

Tough path to glory

Aron Szilagyi was ranked sixth in the world when he took up his saber against Malaysia's Peng Kean Yu. Szilagyi set the tone for what was to come with a 15-1 victory. Beijing gold medalist Man Zhong of China proved a tougher opponent, but he fell to Szilagyi 15-10. After dispensing of German Max Hartung, Szilagyi would see Kovalev in the semifinals.

Kovalev was just coming off his defeat of No. 1-ranked Limbach. Despite a confident Kovalev, Szilagyi more than doubled the Russian with a final of 15-7. Then, Szilagyi took his dominance to the finals. There he defeated Italy's Diego Occhiuzzi with another impressive final of 15-8.

But the gold medal bout was not without drama. Szilagyi stormed out to a 7-0 lead, only to allow Occhiuzzi to battle back. Occhiuzzi closed the gap to a 9-5 margin, before Szilagyi pulled away again for good.

Lone hope for once dominant Hungary

Hungary has more gold medals in men's saber than any other country. Hungary's stranglehold on saber gold ended in 1964, though. It has only one gold once since then at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona. Being the only Hungarian ranked in the top 50, Szilagyi carried a nation's history and hope on his shoulders. His shoulders proved to be more than broad enough for the burden. His performance was reminiscent of the Hungarian glory days as he slashed his way to victory.

On a personal note

As I lamented in article earlier this week (can be read here), NBC chose not to air any of the men's fencing events. While I think it is sad that most missed this thrilling run by the Hungarian underdog, I can only hope that this might sway some additional coverage in the future. This is a wonderful sport much better suited for a big screen TV than a laptop.

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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