China took an epic final victory against Italy in the women’s foil team event at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics after a thrilling 13 hours of wheelchair fencing action.
Bebe Vio was dominant throughout the day displaying her aggressive style and rescuing her team at the decisive moments.
The 24-year-old entered the final bout of the competition against Haiyan Gu trailing 37-40, and the Chinese fencer held her nerve to secure a 41-45 win.
The two-time Paralympic champion added a silver medal to the bronze she picked up in the team event at Rio 2016.
"We are super proud, we are lucky to have this great team even if it is not the gold," Vio said to Olympics.com.
"But it's much better than [bronze at] Rio de Janeiro.... So, I think we just need three more years in Paris [to go one] better."
Bebe Vio: Putting the Italian team first
Bebe Vio values the moment when she took the Rio 2016 bronze Paralympic medal over the more famous individual win.
"That for me was amazing… when you see all your teammates happy,” she said to Olympics.com a few weeks before competition started.
Immediately after retaining her Paralympic title, Bebe was pictured celebrating with her team mates who were making lots of noise for her inside the Makuhari Messe B.
“They stayed here. They really believe in what we're trying to do. And it's I think this is not only my medal it is the medal of everyone.”
The women’s foil team event was an opportunity for the Italian team to take a medal to put in their own trophy cabinets.
Bebe Vio’s route to the team final
Bebe Vio continued her fine run of form in the team event. USA (45-5) and Ukraine (45-24) were swept aside with ease. Italy won every bout in both
Hong Kong provided more resistance in the final pool bout but whenever there was trouble – Bebe Vio managed to bring Italy back into the lead. They won 45-32 in the end.
Vio and her team dominated Hungary in the semi-final with a 45-27 victory. It secured at least a silver which was already one better than their performance at Rio 2016.
China were looking to defend their title against Italy. Zhou Jing Jing recovered from her loss to Vio in the final Foil B event at Rio 2016 to become a Paralympic champion in the team format.
Could history repeat itself again?
I learn so many things thanks to the sport – Bebe Vio to Olympics.com
Wheelchair fencing: how the team event works
The team event consists of nine bouts per round. The winner of the first bout is the first to five hits. In the second bout, the losing team has the chance to recover. The first country to make 10 hits in total from the first and second round wins. This continues for the full nine bouts until one team makes 45 hits.
The format means that a talented fencer can turn around fortunes of their team with one explosive performance. Vio recovered a worrying deficit against Hong Kong by beating Justine Ng 8-1.Even with moments like this, Ionela Mogos was relectant to join the Italian team at first.
"Fencing wasn't love at first sight, I loved playing tennis. One day my physiotherapist suggested that I go and see the national team that was competing in the European championships in Warsaw [Poland]. They were also looking for new fencers,” Mogos said to comitatoparalimpico.it.
“There I met all the team and coach Andrea Pontillo. We exchanged phone numbers and returned to Turin, and after insisting that I try fencing, he convinced me."
Bebe Vio: The final
Mogos was up first in the final against China's Haiyan Gu. She lost 1-5 leaving Bebe Vio with a difficult opening bout against Jingjing Zhou. Vio was ferocious. She won, scoring nine hits and, bringing the scores back to 10-9.
The lead didn't last long though with Jing Rong reestablishing the Chinese advantage to 11-15 against Loredana Rigilia.
Mogos fought bravely to score 9 hits against three-time Paralympic champion Jingjing Zhou to bring the score back to 20-18 overall.
By the time Bebe was back on the piste against Jing Rong, the team were 21-25 down.
Vio received a red card for attacking too early on the final decisive point. Despite outscoring Rong 7-5, she lost the bout to take the scores to 28-30. It would take something very special to stop the skillful Chinese team from pulling away.
Bebe Vio paced back and forth as she watched Trigili and Mogos both lose. But the 37-40 score was in touching distance for Vio who would go up against Gu in the final bout.
The Chinese fencer fought bravely and let out a scream with the final hit making the scores 41-45.