Although sword fighting dates back thousands of years, Fencing as we now understand it really came of age as a sport in the 19th century. A tense, compelling battle of wits and technique, the sport is one of the few to have featured at every modern Olympic Games.
Saturday 28 July – Sunday 5 August
Number of medal events
10: men’s and women’s Individual Epée Foil and Sabre, men’s Team Foil and Team Sabre, women’s Team Epée and Team Foil
Number of competitors
212: 105 men and 107 women.
Each country is limited to eight men and eight women across all events, which equates to three athletes in men’s and women’s Individual and Team Foil, men’s Individual and Team Sabre, and women’s Individual and Team Epée, and two athletes in men’s Individual Epée and women’s Individual Sabre.
Field of play
Fencing takes place on a piste, 14 metres long and between 1.5m and 2m wide.
History of Fencing at the Olympic Games
At the first modern Olympic Games of 1896, the Fencing programme consisted of men’s Foil and Sabre events, with Epée making its debut at Paris 1900. Women’s Foil first featured at the Paris 1924 Games, with Epée and Sabre added in 1996 and 2004 respectively.
Find out more about Fencing at the Olympic Games on the International Olympic Committee website.
Three types of weapon are used in Olympic Fencing. In bouts using the Foil and the slightly heavier Epée, hits are scored by hitting an opponent with the tip of the weapon. In Sabre, hits are more commonly scored with the edge of the weapon.
Epée allows both fencers to score at the same time, while Foil and Sabre have rules of right of way and timing that mean only one fencer can score a hit at a time.
Individual Fencing bouts last for three periods of three minutes each, or until one fencer has scored 15 hits against his/her 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.