Fencing at the Olympics

Did you know that sword-fighting is an Olympic sport? At the Olympics it is called fencing. Fencers fight one-on-one indoors on what is called the Strip. The Strip is 14 metres long and 2 metres wide. Competitors have to stay within this boundary. A fencing challenge is called a bout. Fencers fight in bouts of 3, which last 3 minutes each.

Competitors fight with three different kinds of swords: foils, epees and sabres. Medals are given for the winners in each competition for each kind of sword. Each sword has its own rules, but generally a competitor scores one point each time they touch the other person with the tip of their sword. To win they must score 15 hits on their opponent, or the highest number of hits in a bout. Fencers dress all in white. So that the competitors do not get hurt for real they wear gloves, padded jackets and pants, and wire masks to protect their faces. Most importantly, the swords have blunt tips!

Sword-fighting is a very old sport. Many soldiers in ancient cultures fought with swords, including the Greeks and Romans. Fencing schools were founded in Medieval England, and the rules of fencing were set up by the end of the 1400s. The foil sword was invented in the 1600s, as well as the mesh face mask.

Fencing was first part of the Olympics in 1896, and has been included in every Olympic Games ever since. France, Italy and Hungary have had a strong tradition of fencing since the 1800s. They frequently win the individual men, women and team events, along with Germany and Russia.

You can learn all about what it is like to be a fencer in Fencing is For Me, and learn all about every single Olympic sport in the Macmillan encyclopedia of Olympic sports.