On Saturday, Romania won its first medal at the Tokyo Olympics, in the individual epee event
Romania won, on Saturday, the first medal at the Tokyo Olympic Games. In the individual epee event, Ana-Maria Popescu won the silver medal, climbing the Olympic podium for the third time in her career. The final 'battle', played against the Chinese Yiwen Sun, was dramatic and very tight. During regular time, there was only a two-touch difference between the two athletes, namely at the beginning, when Ana-Maria led 2-0.
Both athletes had moments when they were leading the game, but the Chinese fencer had a better ending. The Romanian managed to equalize in the last seconds of regular time, bringing the score to 10-10. However, she was caught by surprise by her opponent in the extra time minute, and missed, for the second time, the Olympic gold. However, Ana-Maria unreservedly enjoyed the silver medal:
"I played the Olympic final! I am 37 years old. I feel pain everywhere in my body, believe me, it was very hard. It's the hardest won medal in my entire career. So I don't care about the gold on Sun's neck right now. I care about this piece of medal I wanted for myself and that's all. This is the most important thing. And if in Beijing I wasn't mature enough to enjoy that medal, now I'm very happy."
The silver in Tokyo is the 17th medal won by Romanian fencing at the Olympic Games, in addition to the four gold, five silver and seven bronze medals won in previous editions. Practically, with the exception of the 2004 Athens Games, fencing brought medals from all editions of the new millennium. Ana-Maria Popescu, better known to sports lovers as Ana-Maria Branza, was among the latest athletes to win gold, in Rio, in 2016, alongside her colleagues Loredana Dinu, Simona Gherman and Simona Pop. Her Olympic record also includes a silver medal in the individual event, obtained in Beijing, in 2008, when she was defeated in the final by the German athlete Britta Heidemann.
At the Tokyo Games, Ana-Maria qualified after taking first place in the individual world rankings made by the International Fencing Federation. Her participation in the Olympics was, for a time, threatened by some surgery she had to undergo on her right knee. However, the intervention went well, as did the subsequent recovery, carried out in the special conditions generated by the coronavirus pandemic. Ana-Maria then managed to get back into the shape that helped her climb the Olympic podium. (MI)