Down 1 to 6 at one point in the women’s individual foil bronze medal match, Tunisia’s Ines Boubakri climbed her way back to victory, grabbing the first medal for Tunisia in Rio.

Boubakri fell behind early, giving up a five point advantage to Russia’s Aida Shanaeva. However, the fencing gods were on Boubakri’s side, as she crawled her way back to defeat Shanaeva 15 to 11.j

Boubakri originally fenced her way to the semifinals, only to fall short against veteran Italian fencer Elisa Di Francisca in a 9 to 12 bout. Di Francisca went on to lose a close final match against Russia’s Inna Deriglazova, who took home the Gold Medal in the event.

Tunisia’s Ines Boubakri takes bronze

Despite the close final match, all eyes in Tunisia were focused on Boubakri in her bronze medal match against Aida Shanaeva, the Russian who had previously defeated Boubakri in the Fencing World Championships.

With the victory, Boubakri not only became the first Tunisian to medal at the Rio Olympics, but also the first female African fencer to ever win an Olympic medal. Her teammates, sisters Azza and Sarra Besbes each reached the quarterfinals in their respective fencing events, only to fall short of reaching the podium. Boubakri was the last hope for the Tunisian fencing squad to medal and she delivered.

Her victory came as a surprise to many, but not to Tunisia Live. We predicted Boubakri’s victory and wrote in last night’s Olympics post, “Boubakri has a real shot at winning the medal.”

In an interview after her victory, Boubakri dedicated her medal to “the Tunisian and Arab women” and says her victory is “a message that you must believe that women exist and they have their place in society.” In the moments following her victory, Tunisian social media lit up with posts praising Boubakri’s accomplishment. The most poignant posts came from women, who expressed pride in seeing a Tunisian woman achieve such success.

Boubakri, only 27, appears to have a bright future. Her participation in Rio marks her third competition in the Olympics and her bronze medal victory comes just as she is hitting the prime years of her career. Four years from now, don’t be surprised if you see Boubakri once again standing on the Olympic podium, maybe even higher than her place this year.


Originally printed in Tunisia Live