France is the second-most successful nation in Olympic fencing, and with athletes qualified for all 12 events across sabre, epee and foil, the host nation will expect to add to their medal tally at the Paris piste.

President Emmanuel Macron has targeted a top-five finish in the overall medals table for France and the fencers, traditionally the country's biggest source of medals, will need to play their part if the hosts are to meet those expectations.

Their cause might be helped by the absence of Russian fencers, who topped the medals table in Tokyo but will be absent this year because of sanctions put in place after the invasion of Ukraine.

In Tokyo, Russians won both individual and team titles in women's sabre and France's Sara Balzer has a good chance of emulating that feat in Paris with teammates Manon Apithy-Brunet and Cecilia Berder.

"I can't wait to see Sarah Balzer, she deserves to be an Olympic champion," Pierre Guichot, manager of the French Olympic fencing team, told Reuters.

"She has all the assets to be one, but she will have to be strong on the big day, and not break down. Stress can either inhibit or transcend."

Marie-Florence Candassamy is another strong challenger in the women's epee, while the men's epee team includes Tokyo individual gold medalist Romain Cannone as well as Yannick Borel and Alexandre Bardenet.

Enzo Lefort led the men's foil team to gold three years ago and will be challenging for the individual title held by Hong Kong's Cheung Ka-Long.

"I hope (the pressure) will motivate our athletes rather than inhibit them," Guichot added.

"For the coaches there is added pressure, the head of state said it, we have to finish in the top five, so it trickles down to us coaches and staff, we know there are expectations.

"But that's what we're here for, and we hope it will push us to be in France, with a public."

Hong Kong is one example of an emerging power in fencing along with the likes of the United States, China, Korea and Japan.

In the past 15 to 20 years, fencing has evolved from a predominantly European sport to a more global one, with fencers from every continent participating in the Olympics.

"We have made a concerted effort to be one of the most diverse sports in the world," International Fencing Federation (FIE) communication chief Serge Timacheff told Reuters.

There will also be stiff competition for France from established powers like Italy, the most successful nation in 128 years of Olympic fencing, and Hungary.

Hungarian Aron Szilagyi, who in Tokyo became the first fencer to win three individual Olympic fencing gold medals, will be back to defend the sabre title he has held since 2012.

"We don't fear anyone but we respect everyone," said Guichot.

Paris homecoming

An Olympics in France is a sort of homecoming for fencing, where it was first codified as a sport in the 17th century and where much of the terminology derives from.

Timacheff said it was particularly special to have the Games in Paris, where the FIE was founded in 1913.

That was 17 years after fencing was included in the first modern Olympics with Eugene-Henri Gravelotte becoming France's first gold medalist by winning the foil event.

"In spite of the fact that fencing has become more universal and more global, we find that Paris is one of the centers of the fencing universe," Timacheff said.

"We're happy that we can share the diversity we have in one of our most important homes for our sport."

This year's fencing competition will take place from July 27-August 4 at the Grand Palais in the heart of the city.

"We love the fact that we're in the Grand Palais, it's such an iconic and beautiful building," Timacheff added.