Two gold medals and a case of wine

Some champions rely on their focus and preparation. Others prosper because of their flexibility and their ability to adapt. Jehan Buhan was very much in the latter group A 36-year-old French wine merchant, he had arrived in London expecting to compete in the épée category but things changed, and his entry was moved to the foil.

It proved a masterstroke as Buhan swept his way to victory in all out of the seven contests he entered.. His nearest rival was French team-mate Christian d'Oriola, then a brilliantly talented 19-year-old who had won the world championships, and who was destined to become one of the century's great fencers. In 1948, though, the older man retained the edge, finishing with an overall record of 24-1. Buhan's speed was matched by his tactical excellence. He prevailed most pointedly by adapting his style to counter the strengths of every opponent he faced.

In the Team Foil event, Buhan and d'Oriola were united in pursuit of gold. To nobody's great surprise, the winners were to be decided by a final match between France and Italy, clearly the two strongest teams in the competition. And this was where Buhan's other great ability came to bear.

In the run-up to that final match, his team-mates were despondent. They said they were exhausted and were suffering because they hated English food so much it had made them ill – a point underlined when René Bougnol withdrew an hour before and had to be replaced by Jacques Lataste. Buhan reverted to the experienced wine merchant and promptly procured a case of French red wine. Revived, his team won gold and Buhan returned home with two gold medals, along with his wine.