Summer Olympic Games 1996 – 2012
The traditional powers are Italy, France and Hungary, which monopolised fencing until the rise of the Soviet Union in the 1960s. Italy and France have excelled at foil and epee, dating back to the sixteenth century schools of masters such as Camillo Agrippa, who is cited, among other places, in the cult film The Princess Bride. The sabre originates from the szabla, a sword used in Hungary in the same period, hence Hungarian medals with it.
The former Soviet nations remain strong and new challengers have emerged in China and South Korea, which won its first medal as recently as 2000. As the sport becomes more global, surprising countries like Venezuela and Egypt have begun to find success.
Italy has withstood the increased competition better than its rivals. France did not win a single medal at London 2012, but there is expected to be a French comeback this year.
Next: Which two continents dominate men’s football? Clue: Europe is not one of them.