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Fencing at the 1906 Athina Summer Games

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Sports:

Host City: Athina, Greece
Date Started: April 23, 1906
Date Finished: May 1, 1906
Events: 8

Participants: 62 (62 men and 0 women) from 12 countries
Youngest Participant: NED Gabriël Vigeveno (17 years, 192 days)
Oldest Participant: GBR Charles Newton Robinson (52 years, 192 days)
Most Medals (Athlete): GER Gustav Casmir (4 medals)
Most Medals (Country): FRA France (5 medals)

Overview

The fencing events were held at several sites. Most of the matches were held outdoors in an open courtyard inside the Zappeion. (In 1896 they had been conducted indoors at the Zappeion.) There were some complaints from the athletes because of the outdoor competitions and the hot Greek sun. Other matches were conducted at the Athens Lawn Tennis Club and also at the Athens Central School for Gymnastics.

Hendrik van Blijenburgh, a Dutch fencer in 1906, noted, "The fencing was perhaps the most poorly organised event of the lot. All the Greek officers were appointed judges whether they understood anything about fencing or not. The fencers stood, from morning till night, in the courtyard of the Zappeion, where the events took place, in the open air, under the burning sun. The fencing contests were going on in four or five places at once, which gave the whole thing the appearance of a circus."

There were eight fencing events at the 1906 Olympic Games, six for amateurs, and two for professionals. At the Sorbonne Congress of 1894, Coubertin and the rest of the delegates passed rules that, in fencing only, professionals would be allowed to compete in the Olympic Games. But these two professional fencing events in 1906 were the last time professionals would appear on the Olympic stage until the 1980s, at least officially. The six amateur events were as follows: individual foil, individual épée, individual sabre for one hit, individual sabre for three hits, team épée and team sabre. The two professional events were individual events with the épée and sabre.

There was some controversy over the fencing rules for the 1906 Olympic Games. Cook described this as follows, "In the last weeks before the start the code of fencing rules to be used in the tournament reached London, and it at once became evident that they had been drawn up by someone more conversant with the foil than with the sword. We immediately formulated our objections, printed them in a small pamphlet and sent them off to Greece, signed by every member of the team and warmly supported by the official recommendation of the British Olympic Association. The larger proportion of our wishes were eventually carried out, for we only demanded the same code of rules invariably employed in similar tournaments in Paris, London, Ostend, and elsewhere; but I was most unexpectedly faced, on arrival in Athens, by a demand from the French that we should fight with buttons only on our swords, and without the pointe d'arrêt, that slightly projecting atom of keen steel which greatly assists a judge in seeing whether a hit has been made with a point or not, and which is often the only method by which a perfectly legitimate score can rapidly and neatly be made upon the wrist, forearm or hand."

Medalists