Hey, welcome back! As promised, here is Part 2 of the 1981 World University Games Men’s Foil Final, held in Bucharest, Romania, videotaped and narrated by Michael D’Asaro, Sr. (If you missed Part 1, go back a post before continuing. It’s worth it!)
Let’s get right to the action. The first match in the top four pits the great Soviet fencer Vladimir Smirnov against Federico Cervi from Italy. Unfortunately, we pick up the battle past the mid-way point with Smirnov leading 8-5…
Remember – points are scored against in this bout to 10 touches.
Next up, the other two top-four finalists: Alexandr Romankov and Petru Kuki. This is a pretty epic battle, if you ask me. Is there some directorial favor for Kuki, the local hero fencing in front of his home crowd and carrying the hopes of his nation in this microcosm of larger politically charged notions? Beats me! I believe Romankov might have felt there was. You watch and decide for yourself.
That leaves only two for the gold: Smirnov vs Kuki; a repeat of the World Championship gold medal match from earlier in the same year. (Michael didn’t tape the bronze medal match between Romankov and Cervi, but you’ll hear him say “Pezzini beat Romankov” with a score of 12-10. He misspoke, as Romankov beat Pezzini in his first match in the final, so it had to be Cervi that defeated Romankov for third place.)
Before the final match, I want to mention the changes that came about as a result of the death of Vladimir Smirnov at the 1982 World Championships. While there had been a few fatalities in the sport over the course of the 20th century, as well as the severe wounding of Vladimir Lapitsky at the 1980 Olympics (the only coverage fencing received in the US from the partially boycotted Moscow Olympics), Smirnov’s death caused a complete re-thinking of the safety regulations of the sport. The strength of mask mesh was increased. Jackets began to be manufactured with then-new bulletproof materials such as Kevlar. Blade manufacturing was revised to minimize carbon deposits in the steel that could create a jagged edge upon breaking. All of these changes happened almost immediately, securing future fencers from the fate that took one of the finest from us too early.
Without further ado, Vladimir Smirnov, circa 1981, versus Petru Kuki.
Smirnov’s superiority aside, one of the very strong impressions this final bout left me with was a sense of fair play on the part of Kuki. There are a couple of times in the match where the crowd is hoping for a call to be made in his favor, and he acknowledges Smirnov’s touch with a simple raising of his hand. This is an act that one hopes to expect at your own club or at an event of little import. To see it at the highest level from a person with every reason to want things to go his way, and still be willing to give due credit to his opponent? Well, I’ve never met Petru Kuki, but I like to imagine that he is a man of both great skill and excellent character.