Never have I seen championship fencing right up close where the action and tactics are so clear and immediate. 2012 Olympic fencing is being streamed live over NBC Olympics (this morning, Sunday 7-29) using YouTube which, when set to full screen, is like standing right there beside the strip (piste) as if you are a judge calling the play. As fencing is of lesser interest to American audiences, little of it is televised and, never having gone to an Olympics, it is next to impossible to see closely champion fencers like these.
And watching closely is so interesting. Yesterday in the Women’s Individual Foil South Korean Nam Hyun-hee fenced Italian Eliza Di Francisca. Nam must be at least six inches shorter than Di Francisca and is left-handed, which called for extraordinary tactics from both women. Di Francisca had the longer reach and came in high; Nam had to come under the Italian’s blade and attack up under Di Francisca’s guard.
With her opponent being a lefty – that is, with Nam’s foil on the same side as Di Francisca’s – the target area was always partially blocked by Nam’s weapon and arm. Even if an opponent’s weapon could be lured out of line to open the chest area for a hit, the target was still partially obscured.
Nam’s defense against the Italian’s longer reach was lightning speed – Nam shot back out of reach with such amazing agility that many of Di Francisca’s thrusts simply could not reach her smaller opponent. The tactics of a fencing bout were rarely so obvious to the uninitiated observer, or presented so graphically in streaming video. Di Francisca won a close contest over Nam with a score of 11 to 10.
The various categories of fencing make it a large activity at the Olympics, with something like 24 medals, so it continues all this coming week. Today, the finals for Men’s sabre start at about 10:00am PST.