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CHIBA (Reuters) - South Korean fencer Oh Sang-uk cruised to victory in the round of 32 for the men's individual sabre fencing at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games on Saturday, laying to rest any doubt that his bout of COVID-19 this year would impact his performance.
Although Oh, who is ranked No. 1, lost his lead early in the game, he kept his calm, quickly winning back points and rounding off his bout with Andrew Mackiewicz of the United States at 15-7. He will face Egyptian fencer Mohamed Amer in the next round.
Oh was hospitalized for COVID-19 in March after winning gold at the 2021 World Cup event for individual sabre in Budapest. He had to halt his training for a few weeks, months before competing at Tokyo.
"I had a headache and muscle pain, and moreover I couldn't smell and taste. I was really sick and felt like I lost a lot of muscle," he told a Korean broadcaster at the time.
"It was the first time I have taken a one-month break from training, but I tried to stay positive by thinking that it would be my last holiday before entering the national training centre ahead of the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo."
Oh took his time to start the match on Saturday, seeming slightly flustered as he looked for somewhere to keep his surgical mask before putting on his fencing mask. He placed the surgical mask at the foot of a nearby broadcasting camera before a volunteer scurried over to retrieve it.
In the women's epee individual competition, top-ranked Romanian Ana Maria Popescu secured a safe win, deftly parrying attacks from Singaporean opponent Kiria Tikanah Abdul Rahman before lunging for points. She now faces South Korean Sera Song in the round of 16.
Popescu won the gold medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics in the team epee event, and a silver medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. If she takes top place at the podium in Tokyo, she will make history by becoming the oldest gold medallist ever in women's epee individual fencing at 36.
(Reporting by Sakura Murakami; Editing by Karishma Singh)