Overview

Fencing at the Tokyo Games will comprise 12 medal events, six for men and six for women:

  • Men’s Individual Epee
  • Men’s Individual Foil
  • Men’s Individual Sabre
  • Men’s Team Epee
  • Men’s Team Foil
  • Men’s Team Sabre
  • Women’s Individual Epee
  • Women’s Individual Foil
  • Women’s Individual Sabre
  • Women’s Team Epee
  • Women’s Team Foil
  • Women’s Team Sabre

The three disciplines in fencing are distinguished as follows:

Epee

Among the three weapons, play is generally the slowest in epee, so it is the most likely discipline to use the entirety of the clock. It is the heaviest of the three weapons, and the entire body is the target area. Points can only be scored by hitting the target area with the tip of the blade. This is the only discipline in which right-of-way rules do not apply, so simultaneous touches can be awarded, giving a point to each fencer. Same length as foil but heavier (approx. 27 1/8 ounces), with a larger hand guard and thicker blade.

Foil

Foil is the lightest of the three weapons, and the torso and back are the target area. Points can only be scored by hitting the target area with the tip of the blade. Flexible blade with max length of 3 feet, 6 inches and max weight of 17 5/8 ounces.

Sabre

Among the three weapons, play is generally the fastest in sabre. The target area is anywhere above the waist, besides the hands. Points can be scored with the side of the blade or the tip. Matches almost always finish in less than the allotted time. Similar to Epee but about 1 inch shorter.

Scoring

The scoring system is also different for each weapon:

  • Epee: Points are scored with the tip of the blade, but the athlete’s entire body is a valid target area (including head and feet).
  • Foil: Points are scored with the tip of the blade, which must land with the torso.
  • Sabre: Touches may be executed with the blade’s front edge, the last 1/3 of its back edge, or the tip. The permitted target area is from the hips to the top of the head.

Individual Events

Tournament Format

Approximately 34 athletes (depending on distribution of host country places) compete in a direct elimination tournament. At the beginning of the tournament, athletes are seeded into a bracket by FIE ranking. The two semifinal winners compete for gold, while the two semifinal losers compete for bronze.

Bout Overview

Each bout is contested over three three-minute periods, or until one fencer scores 15 touches (whichever comes first). (Sabre only: the first period lasts either three minutes or until one fencer scores eight touches, whichever comes first.) There is a one-minute break between each period. Each touch is worth one point.

Overtime

If the clock runs out with a tied score at the end of the third and final round, a one-touch “sudden death” overtime period ensues, and if neither fencer scores a touch within a minute, a random draw conducted by the referee prior to the start of that minute determines the winner.

Team Events

Tournament Format

Eight teams of three fencers compete in a direct-elimination tournament. At the beginning of the tournament, teams are seeded into a bracket by FIE ranking. The tournament progresses from the quarterfinals to the semifinals to the medal rounds. The two semifinal winners compete for gold, while the two semifinal losers compete for bronze.

Match Overview

Each match ends when one team reaches 45 touches or the end of nine three-minute rounds (whichever comes first). Each touch is worth one point. Competition is always one-on-one and fencers rotate in and out. Each fencer participates in three rounds, one against each member of the opposing team.

Round Overview

Scores carry over between the nine rounds. A round ends when either one of these things happens (whichever occurs first):

  • A team reaches five points in the first round, 10 cumulative points in the second round, 15 in the third round, etc.
  • The three-minute clock for the round runs out

Overtime

If the clock runs out with a tied score at the end of the ninth and final round, a one-touch “sudden death” overtime period ensues between the fencers who contested the ninth round. If neither fencer scores a touch within a minute, a random draw conducted by the referee prior to the start of that minute determines the winner.

More information:

Official Tokyo site – Fencing (https://tokyo2020.org/en/games/sport/olympic/fencing/)

USA Fencing (https://www.usafencing.org/)

International Fencing Federation (http://fie.org/)