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World Fencing champion Vladimir Smirnov of the Soviet Union...

ROME -- World Fencing champion Vladimir Smirnov of the Soviet Union is in a deep coma and there is not much hope his life can be saved, doctors said Tuesday.

A medical bulletin issued at midday by doctors at Rome's Gemelli hospital, where Smirnov was taken after an accident during a fencing competition Monday night, said brain scans showed Smirnov, 29, was in a deep coma, had no brain reflexes and was not responding to treatment.

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The bulletin said Smirnov, gold medalist at the 1980 Olympics, condition was getting worse and he was being kept alive in an artificial respirator. Doctors called his chances of survival 'minimal, if any.'

Smirnov, the 1981 men's individual foil world champion, was taken to the hospital Monday night in a coma and suffering from hemorrhaging inside his brain.

The accident occurred during a fencing match with Matthias Behr of West Germany. While Behr was attacking his foil broke, went through Smirnov's face mask, and entered his brain through his left eye socket.

Doctors said they still have not determined whether they would perform surgery.

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