The nature of the sport no doubt has a lot to do with it: fencing has a sense of timing. After making headlines with the case of Ukrainian athlete Olga Kharlan, the 2023 World Championships came to a close at the end of July in Milan, Italy, just one year ahead of the Paris 2024 Games. They were followed in early August by the discipline’s test event for the next Games – a technical and operational trial implemented by the OCOG – at the Grand Palais, the Olympic and Paralympic venue. At the same time, too, as the future Games events.
When all is said and done, the 2023 World Championships carry a great deal of weight. A total of 1,054 athletes from 115 nations competed for titles, including 26 to 31 fencers in the top 32 of the FIE world rankings in individual disciplines. A large and enthusiastic audience. And, in the front row of guests at the opening ceremony on July 25, Sergio Mattarella, President of the Italian Republic.
Proof of fencing’s growing universality: 15 nations from the FIE’s four geographical zones took at least one medal. Italy dominated proceedings, with ten places on the podium (including 4 gold titles), followed by Hungary (4 medals, including 3 gold), Japan (4 medals, including 2 gold), France (6 medals, including 1 gold), the USA (4 medals, including 1 gold), Poland (1 gold), South Korea (3 medals), Greece (2 medals), and China (2 medals). Other medal winners include Georgia, Bulgaria, Egypt, Hong Kong, Kazakhstan and Venezuela.
The trend is not new, but it is confirmed: Asia is moving full steam ahead. In Milan, its fencers won 11 medals. The continent owes this to five nations: Japan, South Korea, China, Hong Kong and Kazakhstan. For the first time in the history of the world event, Asia won all three medals in the men’s foil team event on Sunday July 30, with Japan beating China and Hong Kong.
The universality of fencing, once again confirmed in Milan, is set to become even stronger at the Paris 2024 Games. The Olympic qualification period began on April 3. It will end on April 30, 2024 with the zone qualification events. The many competitions on the calendar should bring their share of surprises, but the provisional ranking of the road to Olympic qualification, published by the FIE on its website, illustrates it without nuance: fencing is establishing itself a little more each season as a global sport. By July 30, 2023, all four geographical zones (Europe, America, Africa and Asia-Oceania), and 37 nations, were represented.
As Bruno Gares, a member of the FIE’s executive committee, explains: “The level is constantly rising. The universality of fencing, which has been observed at youth level for several years, is also increasingly evident at senior level. Not only in terms of participation, but also in terms of performance.”
In Milan, the FIE didn’t just hand out world titles. It also deployed its range of development, aid and education programs: training camps for athletes, donations of fencing equipment (Donate Your Fencing Gear), Fair-Play, Fencing for the Planet and Safeguarding stands.
Greek Emmanuel Katsiadakis, acting President of the FIE, closed the 83rd world championships: “I would like to congratulate our new individual and team world champions on their excellent performances at these championships in the beautiful city of Milan, the last of the Olympic cycle for seniors. They have once again illustrated the impressive support of the whole world for fencing and the talent of our athletes. The spirit of fencing is alive and well.“