Having gone 11 tournaments undefeated in the lead-up to Rio 2016, 19-year-old Bebe Vio was the overwhelming favourite for gold, and she did not disappoint on her Paralympic debut.
Victory for Vio never looked in doubt at any stage. Having cruised through the preliminary rounds without defeat, she then showed her ability with a 15-1 victory over China’s defending Paralympic champion Fang Yao in the women’s individual foil category B semi-final.
Her opponent in the final, China’s Jingjing Zhou, had already won individual epee gold at Rio 2016, but there was to be no repeat of that success as Vio asserted her dominance in the final.
Vio quickly built up a 13-7 lead but there were tense moments before she could seal the title. At one point Zhou’s weapon entered Vio’s mask, meaning she needed ice applied to the back of her head before continuing, undeterred, to win 15-7.
“The point of the foil came inside my mask at one point in the final, but it’s ok now. I’m too happy to feel it,” Vio said.
“It’s so perfect. I dreamed of winning the European title, then the world title and the Paralympic title, and every time it has been better than the dream.
“I was sure of myself today because of the wonderful team behind me. And the crowd were so great, it was like I was in Italy. It was like everybody was inside my mask with me, it was amazing.”
In the women’s category A foil event there was to be no eighth Paralympic gold for Hong Kong’s Chui Yee Yu. Yu was beaten 15-8 by China’s World No.2 Jing Rong, but her silver medal means she equals the record for the most Paralympic medals held by a female fencer.
Speaking afterwards Yee was not aware of her achievement, but was excited that she will have the chance to go one better in the coming days.
“I did not know about the record,” Yee said. “But we have two more team events, so now I’m going to break it!”
In the same event Hungary’s Zsuszanna Krajnyak’s bronze means she has medalled at five consecutive Paralympic Games, a remarkable run which began at Sydney 2000.
Another gold medal for China was already guaranteed as compatriots Yanke Feng and Daoliang Hu met in the final of the men’s foil category B competition. Hu was denied his a third consecutive Paralympic title as his teammate Feng secured a 15-11 win.
In the men’s category A foil contest Hungary’s Richard Osvath couldn’t prevent a third Chinese gold medal of the day as he went down to China’s Ruyi Ye. Ye added another Paralympic title to the one he won in 2012 with a 15-8 victory over the Hungarian World No.2.
Ye’s gold is China’s sixth in wheelchair fencing at Rio 2016, making them the ones to beat when the team competitions get underway in Carioca Arena 3 on Thursday (15 September).