Fencing gold medal winner Limardo takes public transport

By Michael Hirst
BBC 2012

Image caption,
Ruben Limardo posed with his gold medal for fellow DLR passengers

He may be his country's first Olympic gold-medal winner for 44 years, but Ruben Limardo has not let the glory go to his head - taking public transport hours after collecting his medal.

The Venezuelan fencing star eschewed Games Lanes and chauffeured cars for the Docklands Light Railway as he headed for central London on Wednesday.

He endeared himself to packed carriages on his late-night trip from the ExCeL.

Fellow passengers said the atmosphere "summed up the spirit of the Games".

Sporting his national tracksuit and with the gold medal around his neck, the 26-year-old student and Olympic first-timer hopped on to a carriage with an entourage of some 20 celebrating Venezuelan team-mates and fans.

But for the next few minutes, the carriage became little Caracas, with passengers clapping and cheering as Limardo's crew taught them how to say "Well done" in Spanish and led them in Venezuelan chants.

'I touched his medal'

Limardo won the men's individual epee late on Wednesday, beating Norwegian Bartosz Piasecki 15-10 to earn Venezuela only its second Olympic gold medal in history.

Image caption,
Student Ruben Limardo Gascon is Venezuela's first Olympic champion since 1968

Hours later, the epee champion was posing for photos with new fencing fans on the DLR, allowing strangers to put the prized medal around their necks before his group switched to the Jubilee line at Canning Town and headed into central London to continue their fiesta.

Fellow passenger Chris Scanlan said a huge cheer went up as Limardo got on the train.

"I've never seen someone so happy in my life," Mr Scanlan, 49, an NHS worker from Highgate, told the BBC.

"It summed up the spirit of the Games that he felt faith in London to take public transport in a foreign country around midnight.

"The atmosphere was amazing - it was like West Ham beating Tottenham," added Mr Scanlan, himself a Hammers fan and foil fencer.

"And I touched his medal. It's probably the first time a British hand has been on a fencing medal for centuries!"

Limardo's win earned Venezuela its first medal of the Games and first Olympic fencing gold.

"I came here to get a gold medal and I dedicate it to my country," said the fencer after his win.

"My goal was to reach my dream, to be an Olympic champion - that's what I set for myself when I was a child."

He is Venezuela's first Olympic champion since 1968. The country has won 12 medals in total - two gold, two silver and eight bronze.

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