Great Britain’s fencing team stunned reigning champions Italy to win an improbable European Games gold in the men’s foil team competition in Baku.
Their win came just two days after a poor performance in the individual event led team member Richard Kruse to insist “we knew we would fence badly” ahead of the upcoming world championships in Russia.
But Kruse and team-mates Alex Tofalides, Marcus Mepstead and Ben Peggs rose to the occasion to clinch a thrilling 45-41 win at the Crystal Hall, and with it one of their most significant triumphs.
Kruse’s men had surprised France earlier in the day to reach the gold medal match and took an early lead in the first-to-45 final, holding an eight-point advantage at one point before being slowly clawed back.
Italy led for the first time at 32-31 but an inspired final leg by Kruse saw him power past individual champion Alessio Forconi and secure a nail-biting triumph which rounds off a successful Games for Great Britain.
The team will now head to the World Championships in Moscow in three weeks’ time and Kruse insisted: “I didn’t mean to ruffle anyone’s feathers but we are still in a training phase ahead of the worlds.
“We didn’t come here to mess around but to get brilliant preparation. We are not going to celebrate this gold medal, we are going to get our heads down and go to Moscow where I know we are good enough to get on the podium.”
Gemma Gibbons’ hopes of a judo medal were ended at the second stage of her -78kg competition when she was beaten by Ukraine’s Victoria Turks.
The result capped more frustration for Olympic silver medallist Gibbons, who recently returned from injury and rued her inconsistency after a fine first-round win over top-ranked French woman Madeleine Malonga.
Gibbons will now pin her hopes on the qualification process for Rio but admitted her long spell of inactivity could count against her.
She said: “It’s really frustrating because I’m beating some of the best girls in the world but I’m not good enough to beat three or four of them on the same day – that’s my problem.
“I’ve been back on the mat for six months now after two years out with injuries. The Olympics are a year away so my consistency needs to come quicker than it is.”