The biggest pre-tournament favourites Italy soared to a gold in the European Games 2023 Kraków-Malopolska, finishing on top in a field of 19 teams.
Italy had a BYE in the round of 32 due to their position as world no. 2, which they have achieved after winning both the European championships and world championships in 2022. In their first match against Denmark the Italians looked very comfortable and won the match without much discussion 45-31. To reach the finals, they defeated Hungary 45-33 and then Great Britain in the semifinal 45-29.
Their opponent in the final, world no. 4 France, also started off with a BYE in the round of 32. After initially beating Croatia rather comfortably 45-29 in the round of 16, their victory against Belgium in the quarterfinal was a closer battle. Despite leading for most of the match the French were never fully safe, but after a dominant ending to the match the result was written to 45-38. In the semifinal, the French team nearly lost out to the eventual bronze medalists Germany. The two teams traded the lead throughout the match, and entering the final bout France led by 2 points, 40-38. The French captain Enzo LEFORT managed to hold his fort, though, and they advanced 45-43 to the gold medal match.
The bronze match between Germany and Great Britain was fought with much passion, as both teams had everything to win in the bronze medal match. Germany seemed to cruise to the win, but in the 6th bout veteran James-Andrew DAVIS showed routine by brining back the deficit to only one point, 28-29, after initially being down by seven points. After the 8th bout the result had not changed, and the two captains Alexander KAHL (GER) and James-Andrew DAVIS (GBR) faced off with the former being up two points. It was a thrilling exchange, but Germany managed to get out on top 45-43 to secure their fourth medal of the European Games. It was a happy team that spoke to the journalists: ”We have the medal now, but we really want to thank our main guy Alexander (KAHL), he has been incredible throughout the whole day. We had some time to recover between the semifinal and bronze match and we think that was crucial in succeeding in the bronze match.”
Italy had a great start to the final match and achieved a lead 15-9 after the fist three legs were concluded. In the fourth leg, however, France’s Maxime PAUTY dominated his Italian counterpart Filippo MACCHI with a score of 11-4 to bring back the lead to France entering the fifth. Italy answered back, and in the sixth leg world no. 6 Tommaso MARINI (ITA) defeated world no. 2 Enzo LEFORT (FRA) by 8-2 to bring the lead back to Italy’s hands. From there the French could never recover, and Italy secured their back-to-back European gold by 45-39. The Azzuri were ecstatic when they faced the press: ”We feel very good, we are very proud of being at the top of the podium. We are great teammates and our strong point is definitely our friendship.”
Text: Daniel Lazer
European Games Krakow-Malopolska 2023 is Europe’s biggest multidisciplinary sporting event in 2023. More than seven thousand athletes are competing in 26 sports and 29 disciplines for 253 gold medals. More than that, European Games 2023 are part of the qualification process for the Olympic Games in Paris 2024 in 19 sports. This great celebration of sports starts with opening ceremony in Krakow on 21st of June. The closing ceremony will take place on July 2nd.