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A Visual History of Which Countries Have Dominated Women’s Foil at the Senior World Fencing Championships 1981-2015

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Senior World Fencing Championships

The Senior World Fencing Championships are an annual competition organized by the International Fencing Federation (FIE). Held since 1921, the World Championships are the preeminent international fencing competition, apart from the Olympic Games. The championships are not held every fourth year for individual events coinciding with the Olympic Games. This year’s Senior World Fencing Championships will be held in Leipzig, Germany between 19th and 26th July 2017. The schedule for the Championships can be found here. Over the past month or so, we have provided a visualization history for each of the six gender-weapons at the World Championships.

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In our visualization, we have drawn a timeline showing rolling five-year total Top 8 results for the dominant foil countries at the Senior World Championships using data from the International Fencing Federation’s (FIE) database. We thought it worthwhile to provide a longitudinal analysis of the comparative performance of the leading women’s foil fencing nations, by tracing the rise and fall of each country’s Top 8 results over time. The undulating ribbons in the accompanying graph highlight the relative performance of the major foil nations, offering deeper insight into how their fortunes have changed over the past couple of decades.

To overcome the year-by-year gyrations of the Top 8 finishers and provide a smoother short to medium term trend, we have used a rolling five-year Top 8 count of results in the post. The data for 2015, for example, includes the Top 8 results for 2015 and the preceding four years, 2010-2014 (excluding 2012 for the Olympics); 8 results x 5 years = 40 data points. The data for 2014, includes the Top 8 results for 2014 and the preceding four years, 2009-2013, etc.

In this way, short-to-medium term trends are more easily observed. Scroll over the graph below to highlight the comparative data for each country. Only data for the 16 countries with Top 8 results are provided in the graph. Seventy-seven (77) countries have been represented in women’s foil events since 1981.

Senior Women’s Foil

Since 1981, Italy has dominated women’s foil at the Senior World Fencing Championships with 65 Top 8 results, followed by Germany and Russia with 36 and 31 Top 8 finishers, respectively. The countries are joined by Hungary and France to round out the Top 5 foil countries, as illustrated in the graph below. Over the past five years or so, the USA has emerged as a major force in women’s foil and joins, Italy, Russia, France and Poland in the top 5 (France and Poland are tied for 4th place).

During the mid-1980’s, Italy, Germany, Russia, Hungary and France captured about 91% of the Top 8 results, but their share has declined to about 72% in recent years, paving the way for newcomers such as the USA and Poland. Germany and Hungary have ceased to be the force they were in the mid-2000‘s. Scroll over the interactive graph to highlight details.

Since 1981, Team USA has been represented by 31 fencers who have entered the Women’s individual foil event on 106 occasions as listed in the table below. In all, only four U.S. foil fencers have finished in the Top 8 at the World Championships over the period. Lee Kiefer won bronze in 2011, 5th in 2015 and 6th in 2014. Nzingha Prescod and Iris Zimmerman won bronze in 2015 and 1999 respectively and Felicia Zimmermann won 7th place in 1994. 

The ranking of Team USA Women’s Foil members by the number of Senior World Fencing Championships attended for the individual competition is provided in the accompanying table. Caitlin Bilodeaux, Ann Marsh, and Iris Zimmermann are tied for the #1 ranking with seven Senior World Fencing Championship appearances. 

Ranking of Team USA Senior Women's Foil Members by Number of Individual Senior World Fencing Championships Attended 1981 to 2015

RankFencerYear 1Year 2Year 3Year 4Year 5Year 6Year 7
7BILODEAUX Caitlin1983198519861987198919901991
7MARSH Ann1991199319941995199719992001
7ZIMMERMANN Iris1997199920012002200320062007
6KIEFER Lee200920102011201320142015
6PRESCOD Nzingha200920102011201320142015
6SMART Erinn199819992001200220032007
6ZIMMERMANN Felicia199319941995199719981999
5CROSS EMILY20012002200320062007
5MONPLAISIR Sharon19851986198719901991
5ROSS Nicole20102011201320142015
5THOMPSON HANNA20022003200520062007
5WILLETTE Doris20052006200920102011
4O'NEILL Mary Jane1986198719891990
4SULLIVAN Molly1987198919901991
3ANGELAKIS Jana198119821985
3DE BRUIN Monique199419951997
3HALL Jane199019911993
2CHERIS Elaine19851987
2CHERNYAK Olga19931994
2LU Margaret20132014
2MILLER Margo19831986
2PAXTON Suzanne19931995
1AMENT Andrea2005
1BRADFORD, Vincent1982
1MARTIN Tasha1998
1MASSIALAS Sabrina2015
1MCDANIEL Rachel1998
1NEMECEK Samantha2005
1PIAZZA Lisa1985
1SINGH Ambika2009
1YU Jessica1986
Source: International Fencing Federation

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