26 August 2019

London 2012: Bluffer’s guide to fencing

June 20, 2012
London 2012: Bluffer’s guide to fencing

Fencing is a fast, tense sport that takes place on an area called a piste, 14 metres long and between 1.5m and 2m wide.

To ensure success, athletes must use all their wits and quick thinking to outmanoeuvre their opponent by judging the right time in which to attack in the most effective way.

A key element of this is great footwork otherwise staying static will leave the athlete open to hits.

As host nation, Britain has an additional eight wild cards to play with on top of the standard qualification places and is aiming to use all of them to increase our medal chances.

Venue: ExCel

Date: 28 July – 5 August

Jargon buster

En garde: Fencer’s stance when preparing to fence.

Epée: The heaviest weapon sword.

Flêche: An attack made on the run where a fencer leaps off his leading foot and tries to make the hit as he passes his opponent.

Foil: A light weapon derived from the court sword.

Lunge: A fast, forward movement when attacking, with the back foot static but the front foot and body moving dynamically towards the opponent.

Mal-parry: A parry that fails to prevent an attack from landing.

Parry: A parry is a fencing bladework manoeuvre intended to deflect or block an incoming attack.

Riposte: Scoring a hit after you’ve successfully executed a parry.

Counter-riposte: A hit carried out by a fencer having parried the opponent’s riposte.

Sabre: Derived from the cavalry sword, fencers are limited to hit only above the waist because it was once considered ungentlemanly to hit an opponent’s horse.

Basic rules

Before the battle even begins, fencers must salute each other, otherwise they can be disqualified.

Each contest has two fencers against each other in matches that consist of three three-minute bouts.

There are ten events in total, as well as three types of weapon: the epee, the sabre and the foil.

Points are scored by touching or ‘hitting’ opponents with the tip or blade of the sword, which is wired to a buzzer that makes a sound to indicate contact on a valid target area. The view of a referee is also present.

In the foil, points are won by using the tip of the weapon to hit the trunk of the body.

In the sabre, points are won by using the edge of the sword to hit everything that is above the waist, excluding hands.

And in the epee, points are won by using the tip of the weapon to hit the entire body.

In individual fencing, the winner is the fencer who has first scored 15 hits against their opponent.

In the Team events, teams of three fencers compete against their opponents over a series of nine three-minute bouts, with the aim of accumulating a maximum of 45 hits to win the match.

One to watch

GB’s Natalia Sheppard. Competing in the women’s foil event and currently ranked 55 in the world, Natalia is the only female fencer to have earned her place in the GB team after coming through the European qualifying event in Bratislava this April.

Olympic rivalry? Natalia has exceptionally tough competition in the form of veteran Valentina Vezzali from Italy. Valentina has won of five Olympic golds in the foil, and she will be sure to be battling it out in London to make it six.

Who’s the gold medal favourite? Valentina Vezzali

Who to follow on twitter…




Fencing Olympic fact

Fencing is one of four sports that has featured in every modern Olympics from the start in 1896 in Athens.

The Women’s Sports Magazine

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