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By Sakura Murakami
TOKYO (Reuters) -US fencer Lee Kiefer clinched her first ever gold medal on Sunday in the individual women’s foil fencing event, beating defending champion Inna Deriglazova in the final.
"To come out here and to feel good about your fencing is what all the athletes strive to do and hope you have a medal at the end, so I have everything," Kiefer said after the finals.
Deriglazova, who is ranked no. 1 and has taken part in two previous Olympic Games, was a favourite to win the gold medal and steadily won her bouts throughout the tournament.
In the final, the two went point for point, with Kiefer maintaining a slight lead throughout the match.
Deriglazova sometimes attacked with vigor, pushing Kiefer to the edge of the piste, but Kiefer fought back with decisive stabs, the cheers from her team mates growing louder with each point.
After her win, Kiefer screamed with joy and hugged her coach, before rushing to the stands to hug her husband, fellow US foil fencer Gerek Meinhardt.
Deriglazova looked back at her third run in the Olympics as one that was special because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and made clear that she hadn't given up on taking a gold medal yet.
"I got the silver medal and as of today that is good, but in the team competition we will be able to win gold - let’s hope that," she said.
In another upset, French fencer Romain Cannone, ranked 47th, rose through the ranks to beat top-ranking Hungarian Gergely Siklosi and take the gold medal.
Siklosi had won the world championship in 2019. Tokyo 2020 was the first Olympic Games for both Siklosi and Cannone.
But Cannone secured his win when he and Siklosi both lunged, the latter missing his target while Cannone landed his blow on Siklosi’s back.
Cannone took his mask off after the last point and raised his arms in stunned silence.
"I was truly happy for the journey and the competition, so I didn’t really know how to celebrate but just felt this energy of this happiness," he told reporters at a news conference held after his win.
"I didn’t feel like screaming. It was very subtle and very simple because I was just living the moment," he added.
After his moment in silence, his team mates rushed over onto the piste to crowd around him, jumping in excitement before throwing the gold medalist into the air.
(Reporting by Sakura Murakami; Editing by Stephen Coates, Karishma Singh and Hugh Lawson)