Fencing Woes

30 Jul

Today I spent a good part of my day watching the Women’s Epee Olympic matches. Though I did not fence epee in college, I was excited to watch the worlds best epee fencers. Well it was exciting and heartbreaking all in one match.

The quarter final bout, which would determine who would advance to fence for gold or silver was between Britta Heidemann of Germany and Shin-A-Lam from South Korea. To summarize the whole match, not much happened during the three, three minute bouts. That was not a typo – they fence for three minutes at a time with a minute break in between for three times, totaling 9 minutes of fencing. After the 9 minutes was up, that match was tied. In this case, fencers go to sudden death and fence for one more minute. However, a coin is tossed and whoever wins the coin toss has priority, meaning that if at the end of that extra minute no one has scored a touch, then the person with priority wins by default.

In epee, if both people land an attack on the other the other it’s considered a double touch and both fencers get a point. During sudden death however, a touch only counts if one of the fencers lands. So following is a video of the last few seconds of the bout.


So basically what happens is that as the clock winds down the fencers keep landing both their attacks so they have to keep restarting. As the final second winds down, the German Heidemann makes her attacks faster and faster and it seems that their is a technical issue with the clock at one point where it sets to zero after halt is called (at the 2:00 mark of the video). So the referee calls for a second to be added while the Shin-A-Lam and her coach protest that the bout should be over since time ran out and she should be the winner. Unfortunately the referee does not accept this, and the match continues for one more second. Then the unthinkable happens in that extra ONE SECOND…


German Heidemann scores that final touch for the win. After about an hour of deliberation and the poor South Korean fencer crying on the strip the decision was kept that the touch was valid and the German fencer moved on to the final where she lost and took home the silver medal. Unfortunately Shin-A-Lim did not win her consolation bout for the bronze and ended up in fourth place.

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