In fencing, victory is not everything. More than 1,500 young athletes from over 100 countries experienced this once again during nine days of competition, from April 1 to 9, at the World Cadet and Junior Championships in Plovdiv, Bulgaria. A record participation in the history of the competition, up 11% compared to the 2022 edition.
At stake are eighteen world titles in foil, epee and sabre for both men and women, juniors and cadets. But also, for the new generation of fencers, the opportunity to discover the development programs of the International Fencing Federation (FIE).
At the top of the list, “Donate your fencing gear“. Launched in 2017, the annual program saw a new growth spurt earlier this month in Plovdiv.
Five federations were initially listed for a donation of equipment: Pakistan, Lebanon, Colombia, Kyrgyzstan and Senegal. They were assured of it.
But the equipment generously donated by two fencing equipment manufacturers, Allstar and Uhlmann, and by fencers and coaches, far exceeded expectations. As a result, the FIE was also able to provide donations to nearly a dozen other national federations (Iraq, Panama, El Salvador, Venezuela, Tunisia, Syria, Oman, Nigeria and Libya).
Another programme in the Bulgarian city is Fair Play. This is one of the pillars of fencing and its competitions, at all levels of the pyramid. As at the World Cadet and Junior Championships in 2022 in the United Arab Emirates, the young participants were educated in the values of fencing and the spirit of the sport: honesty, respect and unity. A way to prepare them for the steps that await them on the road to the highest international level at the senior level.
In Bulgaria, the FIE also deployed its Safeguarding program at the competition venue – the Plovdiv International Fair. A dedicated team made the trip. For nine days, they were available to athletes, coaches, officials and staff to inform them of their rights and create an environment free of harassment and abuse. She was available to listen to young competitors who needed help or advice. A QR code was available to download the FIE’s rules for protection, means and contacts for assistance.
Anti-doping? The FIE teamed up with the International Testing Agency (ITA) to continue its education work with the next generation of world fencing. A webinar was organized before the World Championships, on March 21, with simultaneous translation into French and Spanish.
New: the cadets and juniors discovered during the 2023 Worlds the latest initiative of the FIE, the “Fencing for the planet” day. Its first edition was scheduled for Saturday, April 8. Fortunately, it fell during the Cadet and Junior World Championships, on the eve of the last day.
In addition to a detailed presentation of the program by several members of the FIE Executive Committee, a tree was planted in a park in the city of Plovdiv. A symbolic gesture of the determination of the fencing community, including the new generation, to make its contribution to the fight to save the planet.
On the competition field, the Cadet and Junior World Championships confirmed once again that fencing is global. Better still, it is opening its podiums to a growing number of federations. This year in Plovdiv, 23 federations won at least one medal.
No less than four federations have placed a young athlete in the top eight of a cadet and junior world championship for the first time in their history: Niger, Kuwait, Virgin Islands and Chinese Taipei. Kruz Schembri (Virgin Islands) and Li-Hsiang Hung (Taipei) not only won their first medal, respectively silver in cadet epee and bronze in cadet epee. They also won the first medal at a world fencing championship in any category in the history of their federation.
The two young athletes have also highlighted, with their performances, the relevance of the training camp organized by the FIE, in all three weapons, before the Worlds, in a local club in Plovdiv. They were part of the twenty fencers from Europe, Africa, America, Asia and Oceania who benefited from an intensive preparation, adapted and dedicated, and from the expertise of high level coaches. The experience led them to the podium.