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In a surprise victory, world No. 8 Japan claimed the gold medal in the finals of the men’s team epee event with a 45-36 victory over the Russian Olympic Committee on Friday.

Japan had trounced top-ranked France in the quarter-finals, and cruised to victory over South Korea in the semis.

The medal is the first in the epee discipline for Japan, and the third in the country’s fencing history.

The team maintained a steady lead over the ROC which gradually widened and the venue was filled with tension as reporters filled the press seats and volunteers looked on.

As the final point inched closer, the cheers inside the venue grew louder, until they erupted into a roar when Japan’s Koki Kano took the final point with a calculated, clean lunge at his opponent’s chest.

The match was aired on prime time TV in Japan, and “fencing” was trending on Twitter with over 200,000 tweets on Friday evening — a rare moment in the spotlight for a sport that otherwise is not that in Japan.

South Korea beat China 45-42 in the bronze medal bout.

Russian Sergey Bida (left) competes against Japan's Uyama Satoru in the men's epee team gold medal match at the Makuhari Messe Hall in Chiba. | AFP-JIJI
Russian Sergey Bida (left) competes against Japan’s Uyama Satoru in the men’s epee team gold medal match at the Makuhari Messe Hall in Chiba. | AFP-JIJI

Japan and South Korea’s wins mark the first time in the epee team event that Asian countries have claimed Olympic medals.

On a day of upsets, France, Italy, Ukraine and Switzerland all failed to reach the semis — the first time since the 1992 Barcelona Games that none of the world’s top four got a medal.

“That’s what you get at the Olympics… everyone’s at their top level. That’s what it is,” said Romain Cannone of France after their loss to Japan in the quarter-finals.

France have won gold at the past three Games and last failed to secure a medal in 1992 when they finished fourth.

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