August 09, 2016

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) The future of men's fencing might well be Sangyoung Park.

The 20-year-old South Korean sure looked like the sport's next big star on Tuesday, dispatching more experienced and accomplished fencers on his way to a gold medal. Park stormed back to score the final five points and win men's epee in a matchup of the youngest and oldest competitors in the field.

Park missed much of 2015 with a serious knee injury that helped push his world ranking down to 21st. But he beat 41-year-old Geza Imre of Hungary Imre 15-14 after perhaps the best rally of this tournament.

''It was very hard for me to come back from my injury. I kept thinking about the Olympics and taking part in it. That's what got me back on track,'' Park said.

Despite the loss, Imre is fencing's oldest Olympic individual medalist since 1952 when another Hungarian, Aladar Gurevich, won the silver in men's sabre at 42.

''It's big,'' said Imre, who won bronze at the Atlanta Games 20 years ago. ''But silver is the first loser.''

Top-ranked Gauthier Grumier won the bronze after not letting anyone get within six points of him before the semifinals. But Imre, who also beat Grumier in the 2015 world championships, pulled ahead by three points and countered Grumier's attack with simultaneous touches to clinch the match.

Park dominated Switzerland's Benjamin Steffen 15-9 to make it to the finals.

No. 2 Enrico Garozzo of Italy was hoping to join his brother Daniele, who upset top-ranked American Alexander Massialas on Sunday, as an Olympic champion in Rio. But Park beat Enrico as well in the round of 16.

American Jason Pryor's tournament ended after just one match. He fell to Steffen 15-14.

''That was the most difficult bout I've ever fenced in my life. There's enough adrenaline to kill an elephant,'' Pryor said. ''You try to be disciplined but your body is trying to jump on the touches like a broken jack in the box.''

Abdulaziz Alshatti, the lone independent fencer in the Rio Olympics, was also knocked out after his first match.

Alshatti is from Kuwait, whose Olympic committee was suspended by the IOC in 2015 for ''undue government interference.'' Because of that the ban, Alshatti's had to qualify for Rio by winning a last-chance Asian qualifying event in April.

Alshatti had the backing of a small crowd that appeared to sympathize with his plight. But Hungary's Andras Redli survived a furious late rally from the hard-charging and flamboyant Kuwaiti, winning 14-13 in epee.

''Brazilian people are so cooperative, and I would like to thank them for everything they did,'' Alshatti said. ''They were so great today with me and I'm so happy that I fought.''

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