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1ST LEAD Italy's Garozzo foils US fencing clan's golden Rio dream By Albert Otti, dpa

Europe
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Rio de Janeiro (dpa) - Alexander Massialas is a US fencing prodigy and the world‘s best foil fencer this season, but his dream of winning the first men‘s Olympic fencing gold for the United States since 1904 was popped Sunday by Daniele Garozzo‘s quick blade.

The 24-year-old Italian had never beaten his 22-year-old US rival before, even though the two have duelled numerous times during their young careers, according to Massialas‘ coach and father Greg.

But on Sunday, in front of a thundering crowd in Rio de Janeiro, the slim Sicilian dominated his Californian rival with a score of 15-11 in the final bout.

Garozzo exploded with joy and jumped up and down the fencing strip as soon as he made his final hit for gold, sending his opponent on an emotional rollercoaster.

Massialas cried. He cried when his coach and father told him: "It‘s okay," and he cried all the way through the medals ceremony.

He was overwhelmed by disappointment and elation at the same time, he said.

"Obviously I wish I had won the gold, I was sad a little bit, but I couldn‘t be prouder to bring back any medal for the United States," he told reporters afterwards.

Massalias was the youngest male member of the US Olympic team at the previous Summer Games in London, where he finished on 13th place in the individual foil event, and fourth in the team tournament.

His Greek-born father Greg Massialas is a two-time Olympian fencer himself, and he has coached his son and other US fencers to numerous world championship titles.

"I‘m happy for the silver medal. It‘s still the first time in aeons, in the modern era," he told reporters.

"It told him: I‘m so proud of you. You fenced your hear out," the father said of his son.

Massialas displayed steely nerves in the quarter-final, when he trailed by five points as Italy‘s Giorgio Avola was just one point shy of hitting the winning mark of 15, but Massiala turned the bout around and fought back in an uninterrupted series of hits.

In the final bout, Garozzo managed to stay on the offensive, while Massialas adjusted too late to his rival‘s tactic to catch up.

It was a match of two fencing clans.

Massialas was audibly cheered on by his younger sister Sabrina, who is a top-level fencer herself.

Garozzo was supported by his older brother Enrico, who fences in the epee events in Rio, and who was the first to hug him after his final victorious duel.

Daniele Garozzo is ranked 11th in the world rankings this season. He is a reigning foil team world champion, and he has won two second places in European Championships in the single and team events.

"I really can‘t believe what‘s happening now. If you told me this yesterday, I wouldn‘t believe it," he said, wearing the gold medal around his neck. "It‘s a dream come true."

Garozzo narrowly missed becoming the 200th Italian Olympic Summer Games medallist Sunday, as his country-mate Fabio Basile beat him to this record by minutes in judo.

"Who cares if I didn‘t win number 200? I enjoy it just the same," Garozzo told Italian reporters.

He said he wanted to fulfill his dream of playing football at Rio‘s Copacabana beach before the foil team event on August 12.

He shouldn‘t relax too much, however, since the Massialas‘ plan to achieve that day what they didn‘t manage to do on Sunday. "The first one for the family," Greg Massialas said about the silver medal. "We‘re not done yet."

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