Ivan Trevejo (left) en route to men's epee gold this evening at Baku 2015 ©Getty Images

Nineteen years after earning a fencing silver for Cuba at the Atlanta Olympics, 43-year-old Ivan Trevejo returned to the international medal podium here today - this time on the middle step after defeating Russia’s Sergey Khodos 15-8 in the final of the men’s individual epee at the European Games.

Immediately afterwards another Russian fencer, 21-year-old Yana Alborova, had to settle for silver as she lost 15-11 in the women’s foil individual final to Italy’s Alice Volpi, two years her senior.

Trevejo made the hard decision to defect from Cuba in 2002 because of the economic difficulties in his homeland, and was not able to compete again for almost a decade as he moved on to Spain, and then France, seeking new citizenship.

But once he got his French papers this outstanding athlete from Havana - who had worked during the intervening time as a coach and had also married a French woman and had a son - was able to return to active fencing in 2011.

Since then he has been making up for lost time.

In 2013 he helped his adopted country earn world team bronze.

Now he has contributed an individual gold after a sequence of victories against men who, in some cases, were half his age, and he is nursing hopes of more success in the team competition still to come here.

Beyond that - another Olympics beckons, 20 years on from his first.

“This is a great reward for all the support the French federation have given me and for all the support of the team,” Trevejo said.

"I have tried to stay competing at the highest level possible for as long as I can. I want to try to keep going until the Rio Olympics next year and then we will see."

The three men's epee medallists pose together, with Cuban-turned-Frenchman, Ivan Trevejo in the centre ©Getty Images
The three men's epee medallists pose together, with Cuban-turned-Frenchman, Ivan Trevejo in the centre ©Getty Images

Trevejo is 6ft 1in, but his Russian opponent was 6ft 6in and towered over him, as well as angering him on occasions with an approach so boisterous that at one point the Frenchman was knocked off the piste and virtually pinned down.

But it was an act of desperation from the 28-year-old, who confessed afterwards that Trevejo had outsmarted and surprised him.

"We met for the first time,” said Khodos.

“I've watched many of his bouts and I knew he is fast and technically good.

“I wanted to play it on time, after all he is over 40 years old and I thought he physically would be at a disadvantage.

“But he hit me often in the beginning and apparently he wanted to have a gap between us to fence on calmly."

Trevejo confirmed that analysis of the match.

"I think my experience counted a lot,” he said.

“I felt I played well from the start and my tactics worked.

Trevejo’s was not the only unlikely success story of the day.

Norway’s Bartosz Piasecki won silver at the London 2012 Games, but has since had to return to his day job of teaching because, as says, “there is no money in fencing in Norway".

The 28-year-old’s training time has been cut by half in recent years, and his world ranking has plunged to 216, to the point where he described himself now as “more like a recreational fencer".

However, Piasecki’s bellowing roar and pogo-ing victory celebrations became a feature of the day as he earned a bronze, along with France’s Daniel Jerent, after losing his semi-final to Khodos.

"As almost a recreational fencer, it's totally fair with a bronze medal, I think,” he said.

“Everybody here trains much more than I do.

“So I have to say that I was the best amateur here today."

Volpi, twice a World Youth champion and silver medallist at last year’s World Cup, is a rising star, and she continued Italy's tradition of success in international fencing as she won her first major title.

Alice Volpi of Italy secured foil gold after beating Yana Alborova of Russia ©AFP/Getty Images
Alice Volpi of Italy secured foil gold after beating Yana Alborova of Russia ©AFP/Getty Images

"Finally I was able to win the gold after many second and third places,” she said.

“I've waited long for this.

"I did very well in the pool round, but I was little worried that I would lose my concentration in the elimination round.

“Fortunately that did not happen.”

Adelina Zagidullina of Russia and Italy’;s 32-year-old Valentina Cipriani took the bronze medals after defeats by Volpi and Alborova respectively in the semi-finals.

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