Posted by Jason Rogers
It turns out that it is not only the US Fencers that are having trouble making fencing relevant. The Italian fencing team brought back two individual gold, two individual bronze and three team bronze medals from Beijing, and yet, they are still having difficulty keeping themselves in the public spotlight more permanently than the “15 minutes” that follow the Olympic Games.
A few standouts such as Valentina Vezzali and Margherita Granbassi have crossed over into the mainstream media (on Italy’s equivalent of dancing with the stars and a political talk show respectively), however the rest seem to be having trouble keeping up with these two.
In Europe, especially coutries like France, Italy and Germany, fencing’s popularity far exceeds that of any other sport focused coutries around the world. However, it seems that the greatest impediment to fencing’s popularity is still the issue of explaining the sport to the layperson.
So what’s a fencer think if even the Italians, those with the bluest fencing blood, are struggling? It seems that fencing is at a great crossroads. That is, if fencing wants to grow, it needs to make itself more spectator friendly. Though it has tried this in the past with efforts such as electric scoring, transparent visor masks and timing changes on the scoring machines, it still remains nearly as esoteric as it was 100 years ago to the average person looking on for the first time. Is there any way that we can simplify fencing to something as easy as “put the ball in the hoop” or “spike the ball over the net”? Is it possible that fencing needs to reduce all three weapons to systems that more resemble that of epee (i.e. “hit and don’t be hit”)? I don’t know what the answer is, but it is certainly food for thought. I welcome your comments and suggestions…