By Steven Oldham, Sports Correspondent
Fencing has been contested at every Olympics in the modern era, debuting in Athens at the 1896 Games, with Greek and French fencers winning the maiden golds.
To the untrained eye, fencing look the same – however there are three different variations – foil, epee and sabre.
The foil and epee disciplines are scored by striking your opponent with the tip of the weapon. Fencers using the sabre can score with either the tip or edge of the sword.
Scoring in fencing again varies dependent on the sword used – in the epee both fencers can score at the same time, whilst in sabre and foil there are rights of way meaning only one competitor can score at a time.
Bouts end after three rounds of three minutes, or once a competitor has amassed 15 points in one round.
The London 2012 Olympic tournament is a straight knockout – fighters represent their country in individual and team events right through to the finals.
The fencing tournament begins on July 28 at the ExCeL arena, finishing on August 5.
Gillian Sheen is Great Britian’s sole gold medalist – a three time Olympian, she won the women’s foil at the Melbourne 1956 Games. She also competed in 1952 and 1960. Women’s fencing was introduced in 1924.
Claire Bennett is a foil fencer on British Fencing’s World Class Programme aiming to qualify for London 2012 this summer.
She believes this year’s Olympics offers a real chance to get people interested in less mainstream sports such as fencing.
She said: “We have a great opportunity to inspire kids at a grass roots level across all Olympic sports. I’m teaching kids in London at the moment and it’s fantastic to be involved with them and seeing their enthusiasm for the Games growing.”
“I love fencing because it’s such a challenging sport.”
Claire’s first interest in fencing came after attending an after school club when she was 10 years old – it is clear she was quite the natural.
She said: “Fencing looked so different and I liked the idea of a combat sport. After my first session, my coach told me I would represent the country at World Championships and Olympics so I was super motivated from then on.”
Her first taste of competing for her country came at 14 when she went to her first World Championships.
Claire believes fencing is a multi talented sport and has many different demands for would be competitors.
“You need to be mentally strong as well as physically fit. You also need speed, agility, quick reactions and good footwork.”
“Fencing is also about explosive movements so you’ve got to be quick and strong.”
Fancy giving fencing a go? Manchester Fencing Club offer beginners sessions once a month for £10. The session lasts 90 minutes and is highly supervised. Equipment is provided, just take a drink and light casual clothing. For more information visit www.manchesterfencingclub.org.uk
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