- Associated Press - Thursday, August 11, 2016

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) - Anqi Xu had to charge, and Ana Maria Popescu knew it.

Just before Xu reached a still Popescu, she jumped into the air, raised her arms and struck Xu on the helmet, putting a dramatic cap on Romania’s first medal - a gold, no less - at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

Romania beat top-ranked China 44-38 to win the women’s team epee fencing tournament on Thursday.

Popescu helped Romania widen its early gap, scoring four unmatched touches. Yujie Sun got China back within 30-25 ahead of its final bout before four crucial early scores from Popescu.

Up five with less than 10 seconds to go, Popescu’s highly unorthodox leap and stab clinched it for her country.

“It wasn’t strategy. I just wanted to try,” Popescu said. “It was the moment because for me, fencing is like a show. You must do it until the end. Like a show.”

Russia beat Estonia 37-31 to claim bronze and an Olympic-leading fifth fencing medal.

Violetta Kolobova clinched the bout with 12 touches in the final match, and got so excited that she slammed her foot on the piste with the match all but over.

That drew a sharp rebuke from the crowd, but that was quickly forgotten as Kolobova and her teammates celebrated bronze.

The United States continued its impressive showing in fencing at the Rio Games, finishing a respectable fifth in the women’s team epee event.

The seventh-ranked quartet of sisters Courtney and Kelley Hurley, Katharine Holmes and Katarzyna Trzopek lost to Romania 24-23 to open the event. But they rallied to beat a strong French side 32-28 and got past South Korea 22-18 to finish fifth.

“It did not go our way this time, but we can walk away from that bout knowing that there’s absolutely nothing more that we could’ve done. We prepared perfectly and we fenced perfectly,” Holmes said. “We were a team. I’m not a Hurley, but I felt like one of their sisters.”

The U.S., not typically considered among the world’s top fencing nations, has won a pair of silver individual medals (Alexander Massialas, Daryl Homer) so far. And the Americans, led by Massialas, are considered a strong gold medal contender Friday in men’s team foil.

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