London, England – Valentina Vezzali came up short in her personal bid for Olympic history, but she still claimed bronze as Italy swept the women's foil competition in the first fencing event of the London Games.
Elisa Di Francisca won gold, defeating fellow Italian Arianna Errigo, 12-11, in extra time. However, Vezzali failed in her attempt to win gold in this event for a fourth straight Olympics, but she did make a thrilling comeback to win the bronze medal.
It marked the first time Italy had won all the medals in a women's event in an any sport at the Olympic Games. The sweep was only the second in the history of women's foil, following West Germany's gold, silver, and bronze showing at the 1988 Summer Games.
The 38-year-old Vezzali was trying to become the first woman to win individual gold in the same event at four consecutive Olympics. Americans Carl Lewis (long jump) and Al Oerter (discus) remain the only Olympians to pull off the feat.
Despite heading into the semifinal showdown with a 13-2 lifetime record against Errigo, Vezzali lost to her 24-year-old compatriot by a 15-12 margin. The three-time gold medalist then needed to erase a 12-8 deficit in the final minute of the third period against South Korea's Nam Hyun Hee en route to a 13-12 victory in extra time of the bronze medal bout.
"It was such a tough battle for the bronze medal, but in the end I managed to get it," said Vezzali. "Although my goal was of course to get my fourth gold in a row."
Di Francisca also rallied for the win in the gold medal match. Errigo led 11-8 in the last minute of the third period, but Di Francisca eventually won the contest in extra time.
American Lee Kiefer finished fifth in the overall standings, marking the best result by a U.S. fencer in women's foil since 1956.