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Swiss fencers celebrate Olympic silver

Swiss silver medallists Hablützel-Bürki, Romagnoli and Lamon (left to right) Keystone

The Swiss women's fencing team have been celebrating their silver medal in the épée tournament at the Sydney Olympics. The fencing trio lost to Russia in a hard-fought final.

“We didn’t lose the gold, we won the silver” one of the victorious trio, Gianna Hablützel-Bürki, told swissinfo. “We are very, very happy with the medal.”

Sophie Lamon, who at 15 was the youngest Swiss ever to win an Olympic medal, described the success as a dream come true.

After emphatic wins over Cuba and China on the way to the final, the Swiss were already assured of at least the silver medal. But their efforts to secure the gold suffered a disastrous start.

In the opening bout, Lamon won just two points in reply to the five scored by Russia’s Tatian Logounova. Switzerland’s individual silver medallist, Hablützel-Bürki, then failed to register a single hit in her first bout as the Russians moved into a 9-2 lead.

The third member of the Swiss trio, Diana Romagnoli, helped stem the flow of Russian hits, but after the third segment the Swiss were still six points behind at 11-5.

There then followed an incredible fightback from Lamon. In a high-scoring bout against Oxana Ermakova, the 15-year old from canton Valais registered 10 hits against three from the Russian.

Switzerland now trailed by just a single point. Romagnoli was again solid in her second encounter, as Logounova extended the Russian lead to just two points. Hablützel-Bürki then fought a tight contest against Maria Mazina with both fencers taking a point each.

As the final entered its last three segments, Romagnoli and Ermakova also shared a point each to leave Switzerland 24-22 down with two segments to go.

The penultimate segment saw Switzerland’s highest scoring individual take on Russia’s lowest, as Lamon stepped onto the piste against Mazina. But after levelling the scores at 28-28, the Swiss youngster then suffered from four quick hits in succession, eventually ending her bout with the score at 32-40.

With an 8-point margin to overcome, Hablützel-Bürki had just three minutes to work a miracle. But in the end the Russians were able to wrap up the victory within regulation time. Hablützel-Bürki added another three points to the Swiss tally but Logounova was able to find the last five points needed by the Russians to take the gold.

The team silver, Switzerland’s fourth medal of the Sydney Olympics, marks an incredible improvement in the country’s fencing fortunes. Having never won a medal in the women’s events before these Games, Switzerland has now won two silver fencing medals in the space of just three days.

swissinfo with agencies

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR