Tokyo 2020 Preview: En Garde, fencers suit up for Tokyo

The fencing will be hotly contested at Tokyo 2020
The fencing will be hotly contested at Tokyo 2020 Picture: Olympics.com

There are 12 events for Fencing at Tokyo 2020. For all your Olympic coverage, stay tuned to The Inner Sanctum’s Olympic hub and the Olympics Central.

Tokyo 2020 is the first time that there will be 12 different fencing events at the same Olympics, offering up even more chances for Gold.

These 12 competitions are broken down by gender (there are six events each for men and women), the type of sword (Foil, Sabre and Épée) and whether it is an individual or team event.

Traditionally only 10 events have taken place, with two of the Team competitions missing out. The two new events that did not go ahead at Rio 2016 are the Women’s Team Foil and Men’s Team Sabre.

The Swords

The three fencing swords differ greatly, all carrying their own set of rules, techniques and skills.

In Foil, the only target area is the torso. For Sabre, anywhere above the waist, except the weapon head, is a valid target. In Épée, the entire body is a target.

In Foil and Épée, points are scored through thrusting when attacking and by making contact with the tip of the blade. While in Sabre, cutting motions are used and hits made with the flat or back of the blade are allowed.

Foil and Sabre operate under the rule of priority, where the fencer must have priority for a hit to count. Priority is gained through various methods, like by extending the attacking arm, lunging, dodging or parrying (stopping an attack with the blade), or doing a riposte (a counterattack) after doing a parry. In Épée there is no priority, so if both fencers hit each other simultaneously, they each receive a point.

Why to Watch

Fencing is a sport that requires an extraordinary amount of speed, range, skill and focus.

Hours of practice goes into learning the various attacks, parries and ripostes, and acting them out in various scenarios until they become muscle memory. A fencer needs to think several steps ahead before they make one simple move, but it is also a spontaneous sport where the athlete needs to be ready to react to anything and think on their feet. It is a tactical and psychological battle, except it all plays out in the heat of the moment with a sword in hand.

The differences between the blades make fencing a diverse and engaging spectacle for everyone to enjoy. Foil requires precisely targeted skills because of its limited target area. Sabre has stylish cutting motions that are exciting to watch. Épées’ more simplistic ruleset can result in a more chaotic and unpredictable bout.

The Events

The six Individual events are single-elimination tournaments, starting from a field of 64 fencers. In Foil and Épée there are three three-minute rounds and the winner is whoever gets to 15 points or has the most points at the end of the third round. In Sabre, there are only two rounds, with a break occurring when one of the fencers first gets to eight points.

The six Team competitions are round-robin style tournaments, consisting of 16 countries with three fencers and one reserve per side. There are nine three-minute rounds that go to a maximum of five points, with the three fencers on either side rotating through. The winning team is whoever reaches 45 points or has the highest score after the ninth round.

Fencing starts on the 24th of July with the Individual events, which will run until July 26th. The Team events begin the next day on the 27th and finish on August 1st.

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Australia’s History In Fencing

Fencing has not been a strong event for Australia, with no podium finishes for the country.

Australia last competed in fencing at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, where it was represented by two athletes. Joanna Halls was eliminated in the first round of the Women’s Individual Foil, while Amber Parkinson finished 19th overall in the Women’s Individual Épée.

While Australia is yet to win a medal in fencing, past highlights include Greg Benko coming sixth in the Men’s Individual Foil at Montreal 1976 (Australia’s highest ever finish), the Men’s Épée Team finishing eighth at Sydney 2000, and Evelyn Halls coming 12th in the Women’s Individual Epée at Athens 2004.

Australian Fencing Team at Tokyo 2020

Australia will not be competing in fencing this year, the third consecutive Olympics where it has not been represented in a fencing event.

Medal Favourites

There are several powerhouse countries in fencing like Italy, France and Hungary, who should all feature highly in the medal count once again.

In the Men’s Foil, Italy will be hard to beat in the Team event, but the USA and France will be tough competition. Representatives from those countries, reigning Olympic champion Daniele Garozzo (ITA), Rio 2016 Silver medallist Alexander Massialas (USA) and current world champion Enzo Lefort (FRA), will be competing for Individual Foil Gold.

Áron Szilágyi (HUN) will be aiming for more glory after winning the last two Gold medals in the Men’s Individual Sabre, while also leading Hungary now that the Men’s Team Sabre event is back. But Daryl Homer (USA) will be out to challenge him after claiming Silver at Rio 2016.

The reigning Olympic champion for the Women’s Individual Foil, Inna Deriglazova (ROC), will be hard to stop. Russia is also currently ranked number one in the world for Women’s Foil.

Olga Kharlan (UKR) is looking to win Gold in the Women’s Individual Sabre for the first time, after bringing home Bronze at Rio 2016.

Fencing kicks off on July 24th with the Men’s Individual Sabre and Women’s Individual Épée and concludes on August 1st with the Men’s Team Foil.

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About Hamish Spence 35 Articles
Hamish writes about Aussie Rules, cricket, basketball and all things Tasmanian sport for The Inner Sanctum. His experience includes working for organisations like AFL Tasmania, The Mercury, the TSL, the Hobart Hurricanes and Draft Central. He recently finished a media degree at The University of Tasmania.

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