The Two Toe Touch Triumph

Men’s Epee Olympic Bronze Medal Match

The 2012 Men’s Epee Olympic Bronze Medal Match took place on day 5 of the 2012 Olympic Games in London, UK. Seth Kelsey of the United States of America went head-to-head with Jinsun Jung of Korea. Both competitors lost their semi-final bouts and their chance to win Olympic Gold or Silver, but the chance to win a bronze medal was still alive. In non-Olympic fencing tournaments the fencers that lose in the semi-finals both win a bronze medal, but at the Olympic Games only one fencer can take home the bronze medal for their country. We witnessed an exciting bronze medal match that was incredible from the start all the way to the final point, awarded in overtime.

Seth Kelsey had lost to, eventual gold medalist, Ruben Limardo Gascon in overtime by a score of 6-5. Kelsey is known for his ability to finish matches, successfully, in overtime. Earlier in the day, Kelsey had eliminated the number one fencer in the world, Nikolai Novosjolov by a score of 15 – 11. Kelsey, a tall, right-handed fencer has an excellent defensive game and he utilizes confusing footwork that often jams, or interrupts, any rhythm that his opponent puts forth. Kelsey was looking to write history as no American had ever obtained an individual medal in Men’s Epee at the Olympic Games. London 2012 was Kelsey’s 3rd Olympic Game appearance. Kelsey’s best Olympic result came at the 2008 Beijing Olympics when he finished 17th overall. Kelsey’s best result at a major championship going into the London Olympics was 7th place at the World Championships in Paris in the 2009-2010 season.

Kelsey’s opponent in the bronze medal match, Jinsun Jung of Korea, lost to Bartosz Piasecki of Norway 15 – 13 in their semi-final matchup. Jinsun Jung looked excellent in his semi-final match, but was unable to beat the height and reach of the tall, lanky, Piasecki. Unfortunately for Jung, he was up against another tall fencer in Kelsey. The London Olympics was Jung’s second appearance at the Olympic Games. In Jung’s last showing, he placed 5th at the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008. Jung is well known for his quick attacks to his opponent’s foot and hand, as well as his strong counter-attack game. Jung would look to use his quick change of direction and speed to overcome the strength and reach of Seth Kelsey, in the bronze medal match.

The action started early in the bronze medal bout as it took only eight seconds for a touch to be scored. Kelsey inched close to Jung and attempted a direct fleche (a running attack) to Jung’s chest. Jung was prepared for the action and counter-attacked into Kelsey. Both Kelsey’s and Jung’s light came on and they were both awarded a point each. The fencers fought for positioning on the pisté (the strip the fencers fence on) until Kelsey thought he had figured out Jung’s movement. Kelsey launched an advance lunge hoping to catch Jung as he moved forward but Jung was quick enough to throw out his counter-attack to score another double touch.  It appeared that both fencers were content in scoring doubles, as they were both maintaining a large distance. Jung became more aggressive and attempted to hit Kelsey’s toe, then wrist, before mixing up his attack and driving home a well-prepared fleche attack. Kelsey attempted to parry Jung’s speedy attack, but Jung was too fast and reached the target before Kelsey could protect himself. Jung scored the first single touch to take the lead at 3 – 2. Another double was scored on a direct attack from Kelsey with another counter-attack reply from Jung, to end the first period 4-3 in Jung’s favor. Kelsey was more aggressive in the first period, initiating three of the four series of points. Kelsey was successful on all his attacks, scoring each time he attempted to land a hit. Jung was most successful counter-attacking into Kelsey’s attack. Jung would be looking to push his advantage by being aggressive, but able to rely on his strong counter-attack game for when Kelsey would attack. Kelsey would be a bit more wary of Jung’s attack, but since Kelsey was successful on all of his attacks he didn’t need to change his game plan significantly.

The minute break ended and both fencers seemed calm and poised, ready for the second period to begin. Jung was quick to open the scoring and further his lead by scoring an attack to the underside of Kelsey’s hand, just 11 seconds into the second period. A fleche attack from Kelsey was attempted, to bring the score within one point, but Jung was ready for the attack and counter-attacked to score the double touch. Kelsey decided to slow the match down and count on his defensive game to bring his score closer to Jung’s. Jung initiated a lunge to Kelsey’s hand, but held his attack out too long and Kelsey was able to retreat and then hit Jung on the top of his arm for a single touch. Only 11 seconds passed before Jung was able to extend his lead to two points, when he scored a lunging shot to Kelsey’s toe. After a review, requested by Kelsey, the ref confirmed the point did make contact with Kelsey’s foot and the touch was good. With the gained confidence from his last hit, Jung was looking for a three point separation via a direct fleche to Kelsey’s chest, but Kelsey was able to parry Jung’s blade out of the way and score his own touch to bring the score to 7 – 6 for Jung. Another double would be the last point scored in the second period. Strategically, both fencers were successful in the tactics they were employing. Jung still had success with his counter-attack and he was able to mix it up by launching attacks of his own. Kelsey was still scoring every time he attacked, although Jung would also score on Kelsey’s attempts. Heading into the third period, Kelsey knew he had to control the action and not let Jung set up an attack, as that was the only way Jung was scoring single points. Jung would not look to change his game plan.

The third period began a lot slower than the first and second. Kelsey and Jung were keeping the intensity up, but waiting for the other to make the first mistake. Kelsey took the first initiative and pushed Jung into his end before attempting an advance lunge to Jung’s chest. The result on Kelsey’s attack was the same as each attack he initiated previously; Jung was able to counter-attack and score a double. Jung maintained his one point advantage. Jung had no reason to attack as it appeared Kelsey would only be able to score a single point when Jung attacked. Jung sat back and waited, Kelsey attempted two more attacks – both resulting in a double each. With Jung holding a close lead at 11 – 10, and only a minute left until a bronze medal would be awarded, it seemed that all Jung had to do was counter-attack to win bronze. With 49 seconds left, Jung tried to surprise Kelsey with a risky attack to Kelsey’s hand. Kelsey reacted quickly and landed his own counter-attack, tying the score at 11 points each.  Neither fencer attempted an attack before the third period ran out. Jung took a risk with his attack to Kelsey’s hand and unfortunately for Jung, Kelsey was able to score and push the match to, Kelsey’s specialty, overtime.

Priority was assigned to Kelsey, meaning if nobody scored at the end of the one minute overtime period, Kelsey would be the bronze medal winner. When Jung was given the time to set up an attack, he was able to secure the single touch. If Jung attacked without preparation, like the two attacks he attempted to Kelsey’s hand, Kelsey was the one to score the touch.

Overtime began in the same fashion as the first two periods, with both fencers unwilling to relinquish control of the pisté. Within the first 30 seconds of the overtime match two doubles were scored. Jung cheered at the first double, thinking that he had scored a single. The second double Jung missed an attack to Kelsey’s hand but was able to redirect the tip of his epee into Kelsey’s body to score a double in time with Kelsey’s parry-riposte. A few moments after the second double in the overtime period, Jung attempted a toe hit on Kelsey that Kelsey was able to evade by pulling his foot away, but upon the return of Kelsey’s foot, Jung timed another attack to Kelsey’s toe perfectly! Jung scored the final point of the match to bring home bronze! Pure joy and elation overcame Jung and he collapsed to the ground celebrating his accomplishment at the 2012 London Olympic Games.

Jung’s tricky toe hits made the difference in the bronze medal match. Kelsey had no response to the two toe touches and in a match that was so tight in all other aspects, two toe touches was all that was needed for Jung to win. It was a treat to witness an excellent and exciting match, fenced expertly by Jung and Kelsey. Congratulations to Jung on his bronze medal and congratulations to Kelsey for posting the best result an American has ever had at the Individual Men’s Epee event at the Olympic Games.

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