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Italy wins women's foil team gold at Olympics with 45-31 victory over defending champs Russia

08/02/2012 10:05 EDT | Updated 10/02/2012 05:12 EDT
LONDON - Fencer Elisa Di Francisca won her second gold medal at the London Olympics on Thursday, leading Italy to a 45-31 victory over defending champion Russia in the final of the women's foil team event.

Di Francisca and teammates Arianna Errigo and Valentina Vezzali went 1-2-3 at Saturday's individual competition. Ilaria Salvatori also competed in a round in the final, replacing Errigo.

"We are so happy," Di Francisca said. "It all looked so easy today but there is a lot of work behind this."

It was Italy's fifth fencing medal of the London Olympics after Diego Occhiuzzi took silver in the men's individual saber Sunday.

"It's great to celebrate this victory with so many fans," Di Francisca said. "They cheered for us all the time, it was like having Rome in London."

Italy regained the title it lost to Russia four years ago. Italy was a three-time champion from 1992-2000. At the 2004 Athens Olympics, the women's foil team event was dropped from the schedule — as it will be at the 2016 Olympics in Rio.

Vezzali missed out on a fourth straight gold in the individual competition Saturday, and did not feel like the team gold would make up for it.

"No, that bronze medal was actually very important for me," Vezzali said. "It gave me the energy and the will to go for Rio. It reminded me that this is not it, that I must continue playing."

The 38-year-old Vezzali, who has a 7-year-old son, has announced a temporary break from fencing as she wants to spend more time with her family and have another child.

Despite the overwhelming strength of Italy throughout the competition, Russia expected to have a good chance in the final.

"We won the Olympics and world championships, so we did not consider ourselves outsiders," Larisa Korobeynikova said through an interpreter. "The Italians play with the same team for a long time now so they are very experienced."

South Korea, with Jung Gil-ok, Jeon Hee-sook and Nam Hyun-hee, won bronze with a 45-32 victory over France. The Europeans edged ahead 10-9 before South Korea scored 13 straight points to build an insurmountable lead.

It was the first Olympic fencing medal for South Korea in a team event, and the seventh overall.

Italy and Russia eased through their semifinals with Italy routing France 45-22 and Russia defeating South Korea 44-32.

In the quarterfinals of the nine-nation competition, South Korea beat the United States 45-31, denying the Americans a chance to win a first fencing medal in London.

The United States, a silver medallist four years ago with a different team, defeated Japan 44-22 in the classification match, but lost the battle for fifth place against Poland 45-39.

Lee Kiefer thought the team could have done better.

"We made some mistakes, it just didn't go our way this time," said 18-year-old Kiefer, who contributed 15 points against Poland.

"Sometimes it's just a lack of focus during some areas," she said. "We started to catch up but maybe we rushed it a little too much. With a little more concentration, a little more experience, we will be able to get there."

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