Italy’s success on the fencing piste with a leading seven medals in the 2012 Olympic Games masks an erosion of the sport’s European domination as some unlikely nations also captured sporting glory.
Never before have a Venezuelan, Norwegian or Egyptian taken home an Olympic fencing medal.
And not since 1960 has France, second to Italy in total fencing medals, left the Olympics completely empty-handed.
In London, South Korea, no longer an underdog, won the second most medals, with six, followed by China at three.
In contrast, perennial powerhouse Hungary came away with just one medal, a gold in Sabre that was marred by the playing of an out-of-sync national anthem.
Hungary sent just four fencers and not a single complete team qualified, something that has not happened in over 100 years.
“Now we have an economic crisis at the club level. Because in the clubs, there is not enough money for the accommodation, entry fees, travel, etc.,” said Jeno Kamuti, chief of Hungary’s fencing team and two-time silver medalist in men’s foil.
Hungary’s economy is seen shrinking in 2012, weighed down by high debt levels, weak banks and low investor confidence.