— Published 25 October 2023

Veterans get a facelift

The figures speak for themselves. At the latest World Veterans Fencing Championships, held from 11 to 16 October at Beach’s Ocean Center in Daytona, Florida, 547 fencers competed for the 24 world titles in foil, sabre and epee, in individual and team events. They represented 42 countries on four continents.

On the final day of the competitions, thirteen countries appeared on the medal table, with at least one place on the podium in one or other of the three age categories (50 and over, 60 and over, 70 and over). Leading the way was the United States, hosts of the event, with 24 medals, 13 of them gold. Close behind was France (16 medals, including three gold), followed by Italy (11 medals, including three gold). Three of the established names in world fencing.

The figures speak volumes. They sum up the universality of a world competition organised every year. They reflect the growing popularity of fencing among veterans. But they don’t tell the whole story. In Daytona, the 2023 World Championships have climbed another step. They have pushed back the walls.

Dieter Lammer, Technical and Sports Director of the International Fencing Federation (FIE), who was in Florida at the heart of the event, explains: “The organisation was of a very high standard. The conditions were optimal. There is less and less difference between the senior and veteran championships. The Americans really set the bar very high.”

The FIE also played its part in the success of the event. It contributed its expertise. Above all, it provided the 2023 World Veterans Championships with all the elements required for an event bearing its name and logo. The bouts benefited from video refereeing and the athletes from an appeals chamber. The FIE set the scene for its youth and senior world championships at Beach’s Ocean Center in Daytona, with presentations of the fencers and podium ceremonies… “The World Veterans Championships have the FIE label, they are official world championships and they must also meet the FIE standards, Dieter Lammer sums up. The athletes have appreciated this. They feel more and more respected.”

What about the future? It will be just as demanding. Only bigger. From 2025 onwards, the veterans’ category will be extended to include a new age category. The competition will be open to athletes aged between 40 and 49. A first in the history of the event.

The request was made by the Veterans’ Council, chaired by Frenchman Benoît Pincemaille. It was accepted at the last FIE Congress, on an experimental basis. “This decision should significantly increase participation, says Dieter Lammer. It will also fill a gap by giving fencers in the 40/49 age group a new incentive to pursue their careers at a competitive level. Today, many of them take a break because there isn’t a major competition every year.”

The change in size will not be without consequences for the format of the event. Currently concentrated over six days, it will be extended to eight. “A challenge for the organisers,” admits Dieter Lammer. But there has never been a shortage of host countries for a competition whose organisational costs are lower than those of the senior world championships, but which is guaranteed to attract large numbers of participants from all over the world. The next edition will take place in the United Arab Emirates.