the choreographed bouts you see on film or on the stage. Instead
of swinging from a chandelier or leaping off from balconies, you
will see two skilled fencers moving back and forth on a 6-feet
by 44-feet strip. The action is so fast the touches are scored
Competitors win a fencing bout by being the first to score 15
points (in direct elimination play) or 5 points (in preliminary pool
play) against their opponent, or by having a higher score than
their opponent when the time limit expires. Each time a fencer
lands a valid hit - a touch - on their opponent, she receives one
point. The time limit for direct elimination matches is nine minutes -
three three-minute periods with a one-minute break between each.
Fencing at the Olympic Games will feature a single-elimination
table format, much like that used in Tennis. There will be no
preliminary rounds, as the initial seeding into the table will be
determined by World Rankings.
Foil, epee and saber are the three weapons used in the sport of
fencing. While some fencers compete in all three events, the elite
generally choose to focus their energies on mastering one weapon.
The foil is a descendant of the light court sword formerly used
by nobility to train for duels. It has a flexible, rectangular blade
approximately 35 inches in length and weighing less than one
pound. Points are scored with the tip of the blade and must land
on valid targets: torso from shoulders to groin in the front and to
the waist in the back. The arms, neck, head and legs are
considered off-target. Hits to this non-valid target temporarily halts
the fencing action, but does not result any points being awarded.
The saber is the modern version of the slashing cavalry sword.
The epee (literally meaning "sword" in French) is the descendant
of the dueling sword.
Interesting Fencing Facts
1. Fencing is one of only four sports to be included in every
modern Olympic Games, since the first in 1896. Fencing was
also a sport in the original Olympic Games in ancient Greece.
2. Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the father of the modern Olympic
Games, was a fencer.
3. The tip of the fencing weapon is the second fastest moving
object in sport; the first is the marksman's bullet.
4. Fencing is conducted on a 14m x 2m "strip" or "piste."
The end of the fencing strip represents the line drawn in the
earth by duelists' seconds: to retreat behind this line during
the duel indicated cowardice and loss of honor.
5. The 750 gram weight test used to calibrate a touch, or is based
on the amount of tension required to break the skin. In a duel, the
victor's honor was insured when blood was first drawn -- even if
from a minor wound such as a blister.