World champion Sofya Velikaya successfully defended her women’s sabre title on the opening day of the European Fencing Championships in Toruń, Poland.
The Russian had claimed the crown on three previous occasions, with her last triumph coming on last year in Montreux, and began the day with a series of impressive performances.
After recording a 15-123 victory over Hungary’s Nora Garam in the quarter-finals, Velikaya then replicated the scoreline in another tight clash with Ukraine’s Olga Kharlan, the five-time European champion.
Hungary’s Anna Marton booked her place in the gold medal clash by winning the second semi-final 15-7 against France’s Charlotte Lembach, the silver medallist last year.
Marton was unable to replicate her performance in the final, as Velikaya secured a 15-10 win to finish top of the podium for the second successive year.
The victory confirmed Velikaya as the clear favourite for gold heading into the Rio 2016, with the Championships having been the last major competition for European fencers ahead of the Olympic Games.
After their semi-final losses, Lembach and Kharlan secured bronze medals.
In the men’s foil competition, Russia’s Timur Safin triumphed in the gold medal contest with the world number 28 overcoming the challenge of France’s Erwann Le Pechoux.
The 23-year-old, a bronze medallist at the 2014 World Championships, battled to a 15-9 victory over his opponent in the gold medal contest.
Germany’s Andre Sanita and Italy’s Giorgio Avola, who fell to 15-12 wins against Safin and Le Pechoux in the semi-finals respectively, secured bronze medals.
Tomorrow will see the men’s epee and the women’s individual foil competitions take place.