Fencing Gold Aims to Boost Pride

APLamonova, left, competing against American Hanna Thompson in the final of the women's team foil on Saturday.
BEIJING -- Russia won the gold medal in women's foil fencing with an easy 28-11 win over the U.S. team on Saturday night.

Russia's team of Yevgenia Lamonova, Victoria Nikichina and Svetlana Boiko simply outdid Americans Emily Cross, Hannah Thompson and Erinn Smart through most of the final.

The Russian team and its coaches met for a group hug and bounced around the strip wildly immediately after the win, a Russian flag draped around them.

But Lamonova's mind was on her country's conflict with Georgia. She also was concerned because, by its standards, Russia is not performing well at the games. A nation that was a strong second in the final medal counts both in 2000 and 2004 has won fewer than half the medals the United States and China have garnered this year.

"This means another gold medal for my country," she said. "We don't have many this time. That's why I would like to inform our team to do better. I would like to wish them luck, more luck. I don't know why we are having these strange games. Maybe it's because of the war. I don't know, but I would like to see us do a lot better at these games for everyone on the Russian team."

The U.S. didn't expect to go so far. The Americans were seeded seventh in the quarterfinals, but defeated world champion Poland, then beat No. 3 seed Hungary in the semifinals.

"I don't think we even expected this to turn out as it did," Smart said. "We were the underdogs going into all of our matches. Some other countries didn't expect us to be as strong as we were."

Russia beat favorite Italy 22-21 in the semifinals. Italy beat Hungary 32-23 for the bronze.

Nikichina said Russian pride took over in preparation for the bout against Italy.

"We know that we are a Russian team, and there's a special spirit in that," she said. "We looked at every detail of their matches and we knew all their moves. We knew all their Italian bones. We knew them by heart. I think we are the rightful winners today."