Home favourites no match for formidable Soviet fencers
At the previous eight editions of the Games, the men’s team foil had been won by either France or Italy. In fact, the two countries had finished first and second in seven of those eight Games, and they were fully expected to continue their dominance in Rome.
However, this time there was one other country that came into the Games in formidable form. The Soviet Union had been improving dramatically since finishing fifth at Melbourne1956 and had won the 1959 World Championship title. The new pretenders opened up in dominant style, thrashing Japan 15-1 in their first match with team captain Mark Midler enjoying four victories.
A 9-1 thrashing of Belgium followed and, when the Soviet fencers beat Poland 9-6 in the quarter-finals, it became obvious that they were serious contenders. Meanwhile, the French were surprisingly eliminated in a fence-off against Germany. One of the two giants was now out, and, to the shock of many fans, the second nearly followed suit in the semi-finals as Italy only managed to beat Hungary by the narrowest of margins. With the score locked at 8-8, the count-back of touches put the hosts through by 68 to 65.
In the other semi-final, the Soviet Union eased to a 9-3 win against the Germans, with Midler again starring.
History, and the partisan support of a local crowd, were on Italy's side, but form seemed to favour the Soviet Union, following a relatively untroubled path to the final.. However, Midler was, once again, in formidable form, and he led from the front winning three out of three, while team-mate Viktor Zhdanovich (the individual gold medallist) went even better as he won all four of his bouts. The Soviet team won gold by the surprisingly wide margin of 9-4.
It was a watershed victory in the sport. The Soviet Union team went on to defend their Olympic title four years later with Poland taking silver, with France relegated to bronze and the once dominant Italians left down in seventh.