With two Olympic gold medals in her trophy case, Valentina Vezzali, the defending champion, won her third straight Olympic gold medal in an exciting women’s individual foil medal match.
Vezzali trailed South Korea’s Nam Hyun Hee 4-5 with less than one minute to go. Valentina composed herself, thrust her sword for a point and leveled the match 5-5. With three seconds to go, her final touch earned both gold and unique status in Olympic history.
Vezzali could now become one of the most decorated female fencer in Olympic history—and continues an Italian dominance in this sport. Either Vezzali or Giovanna Trillini, practice partners from the same town north of Rome, have won the World Cup gold medal in women's foil since 1992, except for 2006. Margherita Granbassi (pictured above), a fellow Italian, won that year.
Vezzali, Giovanna Trillini, and Margherita Granbassi all won foil matches to reach the semifinals, as expected, seeded 1, 2, and 3. Nam, however, defeated Trillini 15-10. Vezzali beat Granbassi 12-3, after which Margherita said Vezzali was literally untouchable.
Vezzali had won five total Olympic medals—two individual golds in women’s foil, two team foil golds, and one individual silver. Her training partner, Giovanna Trillini is a seven time Olympic medal winner—four golds, one silver and two bronzes. Margherita has consistently finished in the top three in world foil competition. Granbassi’s talent may only be matched by her beauty, with appearances in magazines accolading her as one of the most beautiful athletes at the Athens Olympics.
Britta Heidemann, Germany, also possesses both superior fencing talent and renowned beauty. Heidemann, seeded number one after her World Championship gold in 2007, won the gold medal in women’s epee in Beijing.
Heidemann defeated Li Na (3), China, 15-13 in a tightly contested semifinal match and, then, Ana Maria Branza (2), Romania, 15-11 for the gold. Britta posed nude in Germany’s Playboy edition in 2004 (a photo I don't think I can include). Heidemann hopes that the two golds Germany has won so far will stimulate increased German interest in fencing.
Heidemann has also enjoyed some celebrity status in the Chinese newspapers. Britta lived in China for three months when she was fifteen, and currently majors in Chinese Cultural Studies in Cologne.
After her gold, she answered some of the many media questions in Chinese. The China News Agency attributed her love for China as the reason she won the gold. Heidemann will return to China for work in September.
Vezzali and Granbassi intend on continuing to compete internationally, and will be at the London Olympics in 2012. Trillini is retiring. Vezzali will take her gold medal home to her son (see last two photos), who wanted the medal as a souvenir of her trip to Beijing.
Could Heidemann be persuaded by the Chinese to represent them in 2012? Fencing is clearly a joy to watch.