Fencing began as a form of military training and transitioned to a sport in the 14th and 15th centuries. Three innovations in the 17th and 18th centuries led to its popularity as a sport: the “foil”, a weapon with a flattened tip; a set of rules governing the target area; and the wire-mesh mask. Together, these developments ensured the safety of fencing’s participants, which led to its widespread popularity.

Fencing was included at the first modern day Olympics held in Athens in 1896, and has remained on the Olympic programme. The women’s fencing competition entered the Games in 1924 in Paris.

78 Athletes (39 women and 39 men)

Women / Men / Epée Individual / Sabre Individual / Foil Individual / Mixed Continental Team



There are three types of weapons used by both genders: épée, foil, and sabre.


Epée. Athletes may score a “touch” on any part of their opponent’s body with the tip of the weapon (which has a small spring-loaded, electrical scoring mechanism). Simultaneous touches result in a point for each fencer, called a “double touch”. Épée is traditionally considered a “dueling weapon” with fewer rules overall.


Foil. Athletes may score a “touch” on their opponent’s torso only, excluding the head, arms, and legs. Points are only achieved by hitting with the tip of the weapon, which, similar to épée, has a spring-loaded, electrical scoring mechanism. Fencers wear an electrically conductive “lame” jacket to indicate when a fair touch has occurred. In the event of a simultaneous touch, the referee makes a decision as to the “right of way” of the touch, and who legitimately earned a point in the encounter. Foil has been a traditional training weapon in fencing, often the first experience fencers have with the sport.


Sabre. Athletes may score a “touch” with the point or any part of the blade by making contact with their opponent’s electrically conductive lame. The target area includes all parts of the body above the waist. As with foil, in the event of a simultaneous touch, the referee decides which fencer had “right of way” and earned the point. Sabre has a history in cavalry and is regarded as a “cutting” weapon, and bouts are very quick.

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