In a dominant performance, South Korea defeated Italy in the Men’s Saber Team finals this Wednesday by a score of 45-26 – the largest margin of victory of any match all event. South Korea is current reigning Olympic Champion for the team event – they last won Gold in London 2012. The team event was not held in 2016 due to medal rotation.
South Korea’s saber squad, comprised of Kim Jung-hwan, Oh Sang-uk, Gu Bong-il and alternate Kim Jun-ho, was the strongest group of individual fencers, all being ranked in the individual top 10 in the world, but their combined team seed was deceptively low at just #4 in the world. They were still generally favored to win the event. Both Gu and Kim were members of that 2012 Gold medal winning squad.
Italy’s team, comprised of Luca Curatoli, Enrico DeBerre’, subbed in alternate Aldo Montano, and subbed out Luigi Samele, came into the event seeded 7th, with Samele as the Silver Medalist from the individual event. Due to an injury in the earlier semi-final bout against Hungary, Samele was tagged out in favor of the deeply experienced alternate Montano.
In the Bronze medal match, Hungary took a very decisive early lead, entering the final period 26-40. But in a very exciting run, Max Hartung of Germany ran the score up to 40 before the Individual Gold medalist Aron Szilagyi finally managed to close the bout at 40-45, ending a 14 point comeback attempt and earning the Bronze for Hungary. Hungary hasn’t won a Men’s Team Saber medal since Atlanta 1996 despite having a consistently strong cadre of fencers.
The theme of the day seemed to be injuries, with numerous medical breaks and substitutions due to injuries. Team USA, comprised of Daryl Homer, Eli Dershwitz, Andrew Mackiewicz and alternate Khalil Thompson suffered from this the worst of all teams today. In their first bout of the day against Hungary, Mackiewicz rolled his ankle and had to tag in Thompson to finish the day. The team lost the bout 36-45. In their next bout against Iran, Homer injured his hamstring, but with no other substitutes, had to finish out the bout with very limited mobility. The team lost this bout 36-45 as well. The squad then decided to medically withdraw from their final bout against the Russian Olympic Committee, finishing the event in 8th place.