• Kyodo

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Toshiya Saito and Takahiro Shikine won silver and bronze, respectively, in the men’s individual foil at the World Fencing Championships on Sunday.

While Russia’s Dmitry Zherebchenko claimed the gold, the 2-3 finish of the up-and-coming Japanese talents came as a pleasant surprise for a nation that has been seeking to develop young fencers since two-time Olympic silver medalist Yuki Ota retired.

It was the first time that Japan claimed more than one spot on the podium in a single individual discipline at a world meet.

At the awards ceremony, the two Hosei University students were thrilled to receive their medals from Ota, Japan’s first and only fencing world champion who ended his competitive career after last year’s Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

“The older generation and younger generation are swapping places. It’s happening at a good time,” said Ota, who captured the foil title at the 2015 championships in Moscow.

The 20-year-old Saito managed to defeat Rio Olympic champion Daniele Garozzo of Italy in the semifinal but was beaten by Zherebchenko 15-12 in the final.

“I’m simply happy. But I missed some opportunities (to win the final) so in that sense I’m a bit disappointed,” said Saito. “Shikine and I are the same age. It’s great that I was able to win my way up on the world stage with a fellow Japanese.”

The 19-year-old Shikine finished tied for third with Garozzo in his world championships debut.

“I achieved my goal of winning a medal. But once a medal was guaranteed, my desire to win gold grew bigger. Next time I’m definitely going to get a gold medal,” said Shikine.

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