Lei Sheng wins fencing gold

LONDON -- Fencer Lei Sheng of China won the gold medal in men's individual foil at the Olympics, beating Alaaeldin Abouelkassem of Egypt 15-13 in Tuesday's final.

Abouelkassem, who struggled with an arm injury, became the first fencer from the African continent to win an Olympic medal. It was Lei's first gold medal at a major competition, topping his second-place finish at the 2010 world championships.

"I did not expect to win a medal," Lei said through an interpreter. "I was well prepared and full of confidence, so maybe that worked in my favor today."

Choi Byung-chul of South Korea won bronze after edging Andrea Baldini 15-14, denying the multiple European and world champion from Italy the Olympic medal he's still lacking. Baldini missed the 2008 Beijing Games after failing a doping test, though he was later cleared of all charges.

Abouelkassem said he "could not believe" that he won the silver medal, adding that his thoughts were with his father, who died recently. "This was the dream of my dad and he left me three months ago."

Abouelkassem finished fifth at last year's world championships for his previous best result at a major competition. He is ranked eighth by the International Fencing Federation.

Abouelkassem, son of an Algerian mother and an Egyptian father, said his victory would not just boost fencing in Egypt, but in all of Africa. On his way to the final, Abouelkassem beat world champion Andrea Cassara of Italy and four-time world champion Peter Joppich of Germany.

"I feel good. I have no stress," he said. "I am from Africa, from Egypt, so no one expects me to win."

Abouelkassem, who's left-handed, asked for medical treatment on his left arm at 4-2 down in the final. He resumed the match after five minutes and came close to winning gold, leading Lei 13-11 at one point.

"I had a problem with my left shoulder before the match," he said. "Then I had the cramp in the whole left hand. My pointing wasn't very good. It was very hard to win."

Bronze medalist Choi said after beating Ma Jianfei of China 15-13 that the disputed semifinal loss by Shin A-lam in the women's individual epee on Monday "had a big effect" on the South Korean team.

Shin lost the match 6-5 to Germany's Britta Heidemann, but not before officials rejected an appeal by the South Koreans, who argued the match was already over when Heidemann scored the winning point in the final second.

"It was psychologically very difficult," Choi said. "I personally couldn't sleep tonight. I went to bed at 11 and couldn't sleep until three o'clock in the morning. Shin A-lam definitely should have won."

Germany lost its two main medal hopes before the quarterfinals. Defending champion Benjamin Kleibrink was routed in his opening match 15-5 by Yuki Ota of Japan before Joppich went out against Abouelkassem.

"My dream is over, I am very disappointed. I came here to win," said Joppich, adding that we was now going to concentrate on the men's foil team event on Sunday.

Baldini defeated fifth-ranked Race Imboden of the United States 15-9 on his way to the semifinals.

Imboden, competing in his first Olympics, was unhappy with his performance.

"I fenced really badly and he fenced excellently," Imboden said. "He did what he always does and he drew me in. He fences at a really good distance and he was too good for me. He is definitely one of the best."