She becomes only the second fencer in Olympic history after Mariel ZAGUNIS (USA) to hold the women's sabre title. Women's sabre was only introduced as an Olympic sport in Athens 2004, and ZAGUNIS won the inaugural event and then again in Beijing.
In the bronze medal match, ZAGUNIS led all the way to 9-9 before Olga KHARLAN (UKR) nosed ahead. There was no stopping the Ukranian after that as she swept the double Olympic champion aside to win 15-10.
At 14-13 up in the semifinals, VELIKAYA parried an attack from KHARLAN and riposted to win 15-13. Ahead 8-3 at the break, the Russian kept her nerve in the face of a determined assault from the Ukranian, who narrowed the gap to just one hit but could not quite finish the job.
KIM had booked her passge to the gold medal match with an extraordinary comeback against ZAGUNIS in the semifinals. Somehow, the wheels came off the well-oiled ZAGUNIS machine. She was fast out of the blocks and led 12-5 at one stage. But, just as in the quarterfinals, the Korean stormed back to score 10 of the next 11 hits, equalising at 13-all and producing two devastating ripostes to win 15-13.
The top three women's sabre fencers in the world all won through to the semifinals. ZAGUNIS won her three qualifying bouts with consummate ease 15-7, 15-9 and 15-6. KHARLAN, the world No.3, found it hardly more difficult, winning 15-8, 15-10 and 15-9.
KIM was 8-3 down in her quarterfinal match against world No.4 Vassiliki VOUGIOUKA (GRE), but picked up 12 of the next 15 hits to emerge victrorious at 15-12.
VELIKAYA, the fourth semifinalist, suffered a scare at the hands of Dagmara WOZNIAK (USA) before coming through 15-13.
Seven of the world's top eight contested the quarterfinals, the only dropout being Azza BESBES (TUN), the world No.8 who lost narrowly to WOZNIAK, ranked two places lower, 15-13.
For once, the first-round matches went according to seeding, the only marginal surprise being the fightback from 8-3 down by Seira NAKAYAMA (JPN) to beat Leonora PERRUS (FRA), seeded one place higher, 15-12.
The youngest fencer in Olympic history, Lea MOUTOUSSAMY (ALG), 14, winner of the Africa zone qualifying event, drew world champion VELIKAYA and did well to land six hits on her.