31 MARCH 2011 Date after which results will have an impact on rolling rankings used to determine Olympic qualification
JULY 2011 European Championships in Sheffield
31 MARCH 2012 Rolling rankings close, after which some qualification places can be assigned
APRIL/MAY 2012 Additional zonal qualifying tournaments
There are three types of fencing at the Olympic Games: foil, epee and sabre. Both men and women have individual competitions in each, with team competitions in foil and sabre for the men, and foil and epee for the women.
Each nation can send up to three fencers in the disciplines which have a team event, and up to two in the ones which do not (the men's epee and women's sabre).
Team events at the Olympics involve a maximum of eight teams plus the host nation.
The top four teams in the world rankings for each event as of 2 April 2012 automatically reach the Games. After that, the teams ranked fifth to 16th are inspected and the best team from each of four zones - Europe, Pan-America, Africa and Asia-Oceania - goes forward to complete the line-up.
If one or more of those zones do not have any teams in the top 16, the next best-ranked teams yet to be given a place will qualify, regardless of where in the world they are from. There is no special dispensation to ensure every zone is represented.
Those team rankings, and the Olympic places consequently awarded, set the tone for the remaining individual events.
The 24 fencers who qualified through team selection in their event go through to the individual contests as well.
Countries who qualified for team events cannot qualify any more fencers from this point on - of the remaining nations, the two highest-ranked fencers from Europe, Pan-America and Asia-Oceania are selected, plus one from Africa, in each event.
Zonal qualifying tournaments provide five more fencers per event - two from Europe and one each from Pan-America, Asia-Oceania and Africa.
No more than one fencer per country can come through the zonal qualifier in each event, and no country can have more than three fencers in an event overall.
Finally, the men's epee and women's sabre do not have a team event on which to base qualification, so they have a separate system.
Here, the top 12 fencers in the rankings go through automatically, up to a maximum of two per country in the event.
The next eight are chosen by zone - the best remaining two fencers from each of Europe, Pan-America, Asia-Oceania and Africa qualify (a maximum of one per country may qualify this way).
Further zonal qualifiers award 10 more places, with a limited number of invitational spots potentially available too, at the discretion of world governing body the FIE.
Zonal qualifiers for all events are expected to take place in April 2012, with the final list of Olympic competitors drawn up by 23 July that year.
The rolling rankings used to determine qualification take the last year's competitions into account.
Richard Kruse won European bronze for Britain in 2010
How are British competitors doing?
The British have eight wild cards to play with as hosts, to distribute as GB officials see fit, while still abiding by the rule of three fencers maximum per event (and a maximum of two in the men's epee and women's sabre).
These eight wild cards are in addition to any British fencers able to qualify using the means outlined above, so the wild cards can effectively be used to "purchase" extra places once qualification has ended.
The rolling rankings system used means that April 2011 will see the first competitions where results could affect Olympic qualification.
British entrants can help their qualification bids on home soil at the 2011 European Championships, to be held in Sheffield in July, while the 2011 World Championships will take place in November in Sicily.
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