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Monday, 18 September, 2000, 23:11 GMT 00:11 UK
Last-gasp Italy retain team title
Defending Olympic fencing champions Italy have taken a sensational last-gasp victory to retain their team title.
The Italians were never once ahead during the entire final until Alfredo Rota landed the decisive hit in a sudden-death play-off.
Cuba defeated South Korea in the play-off for bronze.
Several times through a tense and often physical nine-bout final, the reigning Olympic champions appeared to play to the crowd.
But the theatrics worked as the Italians overcame the favoured French and a two-touch deficit going into the final bout between Alfredo Rota and Hugues Obry, the silver medallist in the men's individual epee.
Rota scored two quick touches to even the score and then retired to his end of the strip, waiting for Obry to attack as the clock wound down.
When time ran out, the two were forced into a sudden death fence-off in which Rota snared the winning touch, before ripping off his facemask and shaking his head in disbelief as his team-mates ran up to celebrate with him.
Rota shared the gold medal with team-mates Maurizio Randazzo, Paolo Milanoli, and 39-year-old veteran Angelo Mazzoni, fencing in his sixth and final Olympics.
The French were the favorites going into Monday's team event, with many experts predicting the combination of Obry, Barcelona individual gold medallist Eric Srecki, and Jean Francois di Martino would dominate.
Instead, the clinical Obry, who fell to Russian Pavel Kolobkov in Saturday's individual final, was left disappointed again.
He crumbled to the floor and afterwards was consoled by Laura Flessel-Colovic, the French bronze medallist in the women's individual epee.
The French trio of Obry, Eric Srecki and Jean Francois di Martino were four points ahead at several stages but Italy drew level with two and a half minutes remaining.
The final was a high-tempered match which saw two yellow cards and often brought loud cheers and boos from a vocal crowd.
Milanoli delighted and infuriated parts of the crowd in equal measure by often skipping around with his guard down provocatively or clenching his fist with his free hand.
"I enjoy putting on a bit of a show when there's an occasion," he said. But he added that there were tactics behind his antics, too.
"I wanted to get away from the technical patterns, where they (the French) are very strong," he said.
The Italians had also left it late to defeat South Korea in the semi-final. Rota was once again the key man, turning round a five-point deficit in the final period.
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