Olympics 2008: Fencing in China

The historical origin of archery dates back to ca. 8000 BC in Stellmoor, Ahrensburgtal to the north of Hamburg. Archery is a sport in China too, where it can look back on a long tradition.  One can trace back archery in China to the Shang-dynasty (1766-1027 BC). Thus, it was practised over 3500 years ago. Archery played an important role in the first Chinese dynasties with regards both mystical rituals as well as wars. Families from the upper class let their children to be taught in archery amongst music, reading, chariot steering and arithmetics.

Fencing, like wrestling and boxing is one of the oldest competitive sports and became an Olympic discipline at the Olympic Games 1896 in Athens. There were three types of competitions held: sabre-fencing, foil-fencing and foil-fencing for fencing masters. Épée was included in 1900 in Paris. Later at the Olympic Games 1920 in Antwerp, team-fencing was added.

The women fenced in women’s foil-fencing for the first time in 1920. After some other additions in Rome and Atlanta, sabres were included in the women’s fencing programme at the Olympics in Athens 2004.

The Games held in 1984 in Los Angeles were the first ones where athletes from both Taiwan as well as from the PR China took part simultaneously. On this occasion, China won its first Olympic gold medal in fencing; Luan Jujie taking first place in women’s individual foil-fencing.

Twenty-four years on and China hopes to achieve a gold medal in fencing again. The national training centre is in the western part of Beijing. The Chinese athletes practise in the so-called Laoshan Trainings base with enormous commitment and enthusiasm. The red coloured Chinese National Flag hangs in the middle of the base, flanked by an oversized countdown display on the wall, showing the remaining time until the next Olympic Games used to motivate the athletes.

Very much to Chinese’s disappointment, two team competitions in fencing were cancelled from the Olympic programme of the Games in Beijing; the men’s foil-fencing and the women’s épée fencing which both appeared to the International Fencing Federation (FIE) to be inappropriate.

The news agency Xinhua rankings of the best Chinese athletes for 2006 put Fencer Wang Lei in eighth place. He won China’s first title at the fencing world championship Turin Worlds.
The chances of success remain unclear for China in 2008. After the well-known ‘Three Musketeers’; Wang Haibin, Ye Chong and Dong Zhaozhi resigned  and the coaching staff were restructured, the future of Chinese fencing faces some tricky obstacles. However, since August 2006 the Chinese Fencing Team has had a new coach; Christian Bauer, the famous fencing expert from France. Hopefully he will ensure the continued development of the team.

List of previous successes at the Olympics in Fencing since 1984:

Athens 2004             

Men's Events:
Dong Zhaozhi: Silver, Foil-fencing (Team)
Wang Haibin: Slver, Foil-fencing (Team)
Wang Lei: Silver, Épée fencing (Individual)
Wu Hanxiong: Silver, Foil-fencing (Team)
Ye Chong: Silver, Foil-fencing (Team)

Women's Events:
Tan Xue: Silver, Sabre fencing (Individual)

Sydney 2000               

Men's Events:
Dong Zhaozhi: Silver, Foil-fencing (Team)
Wang Haibin: Silver, Foil-fencing (Team)

Women's Events:
Li Na : Bronze, Épée fencing (Team)
Liang Qin: Bronze, Épée fencing (Team)
Yang Shaogi: Bronze, Épée fencing (Team)

Barcelona 1992               

Women's Events:
Wang Huifeng: Silver, Foil-fencing (Individual)

Los Angeles 1984               

Women's Events:
Luan Jujie: Gold, Foil-fencing (Individual)

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