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Last Updated: Thursday, 18 March 2004, 19:09 GMT
Constant cut and thrust
Fencing will take place at the Helliniko Olympic Complex
Fencing will take place at the Helliniko Olympic Complex
Various forms of sword fighting have existed since ancient times but modern fencing is a descendant of 16th century dueling.

The first fencing schools were founded in the Middle Ages, and the sport spread systematically throughout Europe.

Spanish and Italians schools of the late 16th and early 17th centuries were followed by the arrival of a shorter and lighter rapier made popular in France in the 18th century.

In the 19th century the Italians, Hungarians and French founded famous fencing schools, and the Italian masters develpoed sabre fencing into a non-fatal sporting/training form with metal weapons.

Fencing is one of only four sports to feature in every Olympics
The founder of the Olympics, Baron Pierre de Coubertin, was a keen supporter of fencing and as a result the sport was one of only nine included in the first modern Olympic programme in 1896.

Foil and sabre fencing for men were the only disciplines on show, with Frenchman Eugene-Henri Gravelotte and Ioannis Georgiadis, Greece's first Olympic champion, claiming the respective gold medals.

And the sport was well established at the Olympics prior to the International Federation (Fie) being set up in 1913, by which time the competition had been enlarged to include Epee.

A number of technical advances have caused considerable turmoil in the sport, such as electrifying the epee in 1936 and later the introduction of electric judging. Electronic scoring for foil and sabre followed in 1956 and 1992 respectively.

Women's foil was first contested at the 1924 Games, but it was not until 1996 that women's epee followed.

France, Italy and Hungary dominated the event in the Olympics until the 1960s, when the USSR joined the elite nations, followed by West Germany in the 1970 and 1980s.

The sport can boast one of the great Olympic champions in Aladar Gerevich.

The Hungarian won seven golds and is the only man to win six titles at consecutive Games, his run in the sabre lasting from 1932 to 1960.

MEDAL TABLE (Top five)
Country Gold Silver Bronze Total
Men (since 1896)
France 35 36 30 101
Italy 33 32 21 86
Hungary 27 14 20 61
Soviet Union 14 14 15 43
Russia 6 2 1 9
Women (since 1924)
Italy 7 4 5 9
Hungary 6 6 6 18
Soviet Union 5 3 3 11
France 4 2 3 9
West Germnay 3 2 1 6

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