First modification: 07/25/2021 – 20:29
Just over a month ago I didn’t even know I would attend the Olympics, I hadn’t won any international competition. But this Sunday Romain Cannone ended up becoming the great surprise of the day, when he took the gold of the sword. He was the substitute for the team and took the top three in the world rankings ahead. And that’s just 24 years old.
There is little luck in the deed of Romain Cannone. He had on his side of the table the top three in the world ranking – who in turn were champion, runner-up and third of the last World Cup -, the gold winner in London 2012 – the Venezuelan Rubén Limardo – and a total of three other runners-up of the orb.
Cannone, just 24 years old, joined the powerful French team (world number one and current Olympic champion) in mid-June as a replacement for Daniel Jérent, who last November tested positive in an anti-doping control in which traces of a diuretic.
Perhaps Cannone had already dared to dream of Tokyo, because in April 2020 Jérent suffered a car accident that caused a double femur fracture. But the truth is that until the announcement of the second suspension of this for doping (the first was administrative because it was not possible to locate him in three out-of-competition controls in 2019), the name of the explosive shooter had not been pronounced but associated with the word “reservation”.
In Japan, Cannone, 47 in the world ranking, was selected to shoot singles above number 38 Ronan Gustin, a French member of the team that won the Budapest World Cup.
None of the other French starters, such as 2018 Wuxi world champion Yannick Borel and planet number 11 and 2019 Heidenheim World Cup winner Alexandre Bardenet, transcended beyond the round of 16.
Cannone began his journey by dispatching the penultimate Olympic champion, twice world runner-up and ninth in the world, Limardo, who was the one who made him the most resistance judging by the 15-12 scoreboard, although he always kept him below on the scoreboard.
Then he had to face another veteran, the seventh of the world Bas Verwijlen from the Netherlands, runner-up in the 2011 World Cup in Catania, whom he dispatched 15-11.
But the hardest thing would come from the final of eight, in which he met the number two of the ranking and individual runner-up in Budapest 2019 Sergei Bida, who in Tokyo competes with the flag of the Russian Olympic Committee due to sanctions against the country for the so-called “state doping”. A new 15-12 enlisted him to fight for the medals.
In the semifinals it was Ihor Reizlin’s turn: a Ukrainian who appeared third in the world, won bronze at the 2019 Budapest World Cup and this same year he dominated the Kazan World Cup in Russia. 15-10 was all Cannone had to say.
Another Hungarian, Gergely Siklósi, universal monarch and world ranking leader, was in the final again, and his luck was not very different from that of the last Magyar who sought an Olympic gold in epee. At Rio 2016, Géza Imre was 14-10 up and ended up giving up the crown to surprise South Korean Park Sang-Young. In Tokyo 2020, Siklosi had fewer options against the young Cannone who prevailed 15-10.
The triumph of the athlete born in Boulogne-Billancourt, who lived as a child in Brazil and started fencing in New York, puts an end to a long French drought in the Olympic Games.
Since 2004, when Brice Guyart won foil gold, no Frenchman had risen to the top of the podium in a men’s individual Olympic fencing tournament. Specifically in the sword – a weapon in which France is considered the world capital – the wait was even longer: Éric Srecki was the last gold medalist, in Barcelona ’92.
During that same period, France had won seven team crowns at the men’s Olympic Games, but had not found the figure to emulate those achievements individually. That cycle was closed this Sunday, thanks to an athlete who a month ago was not even a candidate to travel to Tokyo.