Gold medal return for fencer Matteo Tagliariol
Italian athlete takes title in Vancouver in only his third event since returning from an 11-month layoff due to injury
Fencer Matteo Tagliariol is sitting on a bench behind a grandstand at the Richmond Olympic Oval talking to a reporter and waiting for the Vancouver Grand Prix medal ceremonies when a fellow competitor walks by and offers a hearty “welcome back.”
The Italian looks up, says “thank you,” and breaks into a broad smile.
It is only his third event since returning from an 11-month layoff due to an injured finger and he has just captured the gold medal in the men’s epee with a 15-11 victory Sunday over Nikolai Novosjolov of Estonia.
Tagliariol, 30,was the 2008 Olympic gold medalist, but didn’t get a chance to defend after tearing a tendon in the middle finger of his right hand at an Olympic qualifying tournament in January, 2012.
“It was really hell for me,” he says. “Don’t go to Olympics, being Olympic champion, is a terrible problem. But now, I’m really happy to win, not only for the win, but the way I win.
“To see my opponent’s face and see that he thinks I’m okay, this is really important for me because fencing is my life.”
Tagliariol, who knocked out Canada’s top epee fencer, Hughes Boisivert-Simard of Quebec in the round of 32, nearly didn’t make the final. In his semifinal, he had a 14-9 lead over Joerg Fielder, who had eliminated London Olympic gold medalist Ruben Limardo of Venezuela in the quarterfinals, only to see the German score five straight points to tie the match.
The two then recorded three consecutive double hits – if both competitors hit one another within 1/25th of a second the result is a point each – before Tagliariol finally registered the winning point.
“I was angry because I know it was my fault,” he said of allowing Fielder back into the match. “I was quite stupid to be 14 all.”
Tagliariol said, however, that he did feel confident all weekend.
“Usually when I win, I feel it before,” he said, adding that he loves Vancouver, having competed in a World Cup in the city five years ago.
“But this (venue) is really awesome. Being here, where the Olympic experience still stands . . . I’m really proud to win a competition here.”
There are only three Grand Prix events a year on the international fencing circuit. The others are in Qatar and Bern, Switzerland. Vancouver secured this one last fall when Stockholm had to pull out because of financial shortfalls.
“It’s been an unbelievable learning experience for us and just an unbelievable showing,” said organizer Igor Gantsevitch. “And we’ve received amazing feedback from the athletes and the coaches.
“I’ve been told this is one of the best World Cups these guys have ever been to. We’re going to fight to keep this event here.”
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