Ramón Fonst, second to none

Ramón Fonst, second to none


By Gabriela Santiesteban

Among the legends of the Olympic sport, fencer Ramón Fonst Segundo, first athlete from Cuba and Latin America to become a medalist in international championships, has a deserved place.

The II Olympic Games, held in Paris in 1900, were the scene of the then surprising victory of the 17-year-old Cuban, who won the gold medal in the sword modality against renowned contenders. Born in Havana on August 31, 1883, Fonst had been foil champion of France at age 11, a country where he spent a good part of his childhood and youth, despite which, he always wanted to compete in a world event for Cuba.

Tall, with long limbs, flexibility, speed and intelligence, the Cuban swordsman, who fought with his left hand, met the ideal conditions for the discipline, together with a masterful technique, for which he came to be called "golden left-hander" and "second to none."

He was consecrated as an exceptional fencer in the following Olympics in 1904 in the American city of Saint Louis, in which he won gold medals in the individual epee and foil events, and as a team in that last modality. The national squad was also made up of Manuel Dionisio Díaz, winner in saber, and Albertson Van Zo Post, silver in sword and foil, and bronze in saber.

His career was extensive and full of successes, including the conquest of gold medals in foil, saber and epee at the II Central American and Caribbean Games in 1926, without being touched in 25 rounds. The chroniclers remember that he was also a unique creator in the field of fencing, in which he imposed new styles, among which stood out his so-called "arresting strokes" and "time strokes", surprising opponents by introducing the point of his sword even in narrow spaces.

This teacher, considered a true gentleman of the sport, won a total of 12 international tournaments without being barely touched and won 135 medals, most of them gold. After his retirement, Ramón Fonst Segundo was head of the Cuban Olympic Committee (1941-1946).

In the 1950s, he was the treasurer of the General Directorate of Sports and in 1959, he served as an advisor to the Department of Physical Education and Sports of the Ministry of Education until his death, on September 10 of that year.