Fencing Glossary:

Fencing at the Olympic Games

Fencing is one of the oldest Olympic disciplines at the modern games. The individual men's sabre and foil events were on the programme at the first modern Olympic Games of Athens in 1896. Épée fencing was added at the Olympic Summer Games of Paris in 1900; since the Olympic Games of Antwerp in 1920, there have also been team competitions for all three weapons. The games in Antwerp were also the first time that women were allowed to compete in fencing at the Olympic Games. For many years women fenced only with foils, however at Atlanta in 1996, the women’s épée event was introduced and at Athens in 2004, women’s sabre event (individual) was added to the Olympic programme. As only ten medals are permitted for fencing at the Olympic Games, certain events had to be struck from the programme. The women’s sabre and foil team events at the Athens Games in 2004 were not Olympic.

The Language of Fencing

The official language of the sport of fencing is French.

The Fencing Tournament

At World Cup events, Grand Prix tournaments and World Championships, the top 16 fencers in the world rankings are seeded in the main draw (round of 64) and do not have to participate in the preliminary rounds. All other fencers compete against each other in round-robin groups of six or seven. After the round-robin round, an index ranking of all the fencers in the preliminary round is compiled. The bottom 20 percent are eliminated from the tournament. The top 16 of the index ranking are then also seeded in the main draw (round of 64). The remaining fencers then compete in a direct elimination competition (knock-out system) until only 32 fencers remain. These 32 fencers, as well as the top 16 of the world rankings and the top 16 of the index ranking then complete the main draw (round of 64) on the second day of the competition.

The Fencing Bout

A fencing bout in the preliminary round lasts for a maximum of three minutes. The first fencer to score five touches within this period wins the bout. As of the knock out stage, the bouts last for a maximum of nine minutes. The winner is the first fencer to score 15 touches. If the score is tied after the regular period of the bout (regardless of whether preliminary round or knock out stage), then the bout is extended by one minute. Prior to restarting the bout, the fencers toss a coin to see which fencer has the right-of-way. If neither of the fencers scores a touch during the one minute of added time, then the fencer with the right-of-way is declared the winner. Otherwise the fencer that scores the first touch during the one minute of added time is declared the winner (“Golden Touch”).

The Épée

  • The tournament épée was developed from the duelling sword or épée.
  • It has a maximum length of 110 cm and a weight of 770 grams.
  • The épée has triangular cross-section blade and a large bell guard.
  • The épée is a thrusting weapon: touches can only be scored with the point of the weapon.
  • The mechanical switch at the point of the weapon must apply a minimum of 750 grams of pressure in order to activate the electronic contact, otherwise the touch is not counted.
  • The entire body is a valid target area for the épée; therefore no lamé (metallic vest/jacket) is worn as in the sabre and foil events.
  • In the épée event, the piste must be conductive in order to be able to differentiate foot touches and floor contacts.
  • As the opponent’s hand is the closest in terms of distance, many actions aim for the hand.
  • There is not right-of-way rule. The first fencer to get the touch scores the point. If both fencers score a touch simultaneously within 1/25 sec, then both fencers are awarded a point.

The Foil

  • The foil is developed from a light sharp-pointed sword (rapier).
  • It has a maximum length of 110 cm and a weight of 500 grams.
  • The foil is thin and flexible and has a rectangular cross-section blade and a small bell guard.
  • The foil is a thrusting weapon: touches can only be scored with the point of the weapon.
  • The mechanical switch at the point of the weapon must apply a minimum of 500 grams of pressure in order to activate the electronic contact. Touches with insufficient pressure are not counted.
  • The trunk is the only valid target area; therefore the fencer wears a conductive lamé (a metallic vest/jacket) that is used to electronically detect the valid touches with the point of the foil.
  • A touch outside the valid target area (signalled by the white light) interrupts the bout.
  • Only the fencer that has right-of-way can score a touch (please see sabre).

The Sabre

  • The tournament sabre was developed from the military sabre.
  • It has a maximum length of 105 cm and a weight of 500 grams.
  • The sabre has a flat, light blade with a curved end. It does not have a hit sensor at the point. The entire sabre reacts to contact.
  • The sabre has a straight right-angled cross-section blade and a curved, triangular guard to protect the hand.
  • The sabre is used as a cutting and thrusting weapon: touches, known as cuts, can be scored with either the tip or the entire blade.
  • The valid target area is the trunk, the arms and the head; therefore the fencer wears a lamé (a metallic vest/jacket) and mask that are conductive (except the transparent eye visor).
  • Invalid touches outside the valid target area are not registered and the bout is not interrupted.
  • Only the fencer that has right-of-way can score a touch: a touch can only be scored by the fencer that makes the attack. If the defending fencer wants to score the touche, then they must first parry the attack and then make a riposte.
  • An attack is a movement signalled by extending the sword arm. As soon as the arm is no longer extended, the attack is deemed over.
  • The sabre is the fastest fencing event.
  • Since 2000, sabre fencing at Grand Prix and World Championships is done without any cables as of the round of 32.

 

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