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A Visual History of Which Countries Have Dominated Men’s & Women’s Saber at the Cadet & Junior World Championships

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In this visualization, we have drawn a timeline showing rolling five-year total Top 8 medal counts for the dominant saber countries at the Cadet and Junior World Championships using data from the International Fencing Federation’s database. We thought it worthwhile to provide a longitudinal analysis of the comparative performance of US fencers and the leading saber fencing nations of the world, by tracing the rise and fall of each country’s medal count over time. The undulating ribbons in the accompanying graphs highlight the relative performance of the major saber nations, offering deeper insight into how the Cadet and Junior World Championships have changed as they have grown 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 total Top 8 medal count in the post. The data for 2010, for example, includes the Top 8 medal count for 2010 and the preceding four years, 2006-2009; 8 medals x 5 years = 40 data points.

The data for 2011, includes the Top 8 medal count for 2011 and the preceding four years, 2007-2010, etc. In this way,  short-to-medium term trends are more easily identified. Scroll over the graphs below to highlight the comparative data for each country. Only data for the top saber fencing countries are provided in the graphs.

For an excellent visualization of the countries that have dominated fencing at the Summer Olympic Games since 1896, check out the article at the New York Times. (Scroll down half the page). Further details on the history of the Cadet and Junior World Championships can be found here.

Men’s Saber

Since 1987, Italy has dominated cadet men’s saber at the Cadet and Junior World Championships with 39 Top 8 medals. It is joined by Hungary, Germany, France and the USA to round out the Top 5 countries, as illustrated in the graph below. Over the past five years, Hungary, and France have given up ground to Russia and Korea which are now in the Top 5, along with the USA, Italy, Ukraine, and Germany. (Germany and Korea are tied for 5th).

In all, 21 or 35% of US cadet men saber fencers have won a Top 8 medal at the Cadet World Championships since 1987, with only Harrison Mahaffey winning two Top 8 medals, a 7th in 2006 and an 8th in 2007.

Russia, Hungary, and Germany have been the powerhouse saber nations in junior men’s saber since 1987, with only three Top 8 medals separating them; 37, 36 and 34 respectively. They are joined by Italy and France to make the Top 5 as illustrated in the accompanying graph below. The US is tied with Poland for 6th place with 15 Top 8 medals. Over the past five years, the USA has jumped into 3rd place joining Russia, Italy, Hungary, Germany and France in the Top 5 (Hungary, Germany, and France are tied for 4th place).

In all, 11 or 18% of US junior men saber fencers have won a Top 8 medal at the Junior World Championships since 1987. Notable US saber fencers with multiple-year Top 8 results include Ivan Lee (2000, 2001), Daryl Homer (2009, 2010) and Eli Dershwitz (2012, 2013, 2015)

Women’s Saber

Russia and the USA sit atop the leaderboard in cadet women’s saber at the Cadet and Junior World Championships. With 26 and 20 Top 8 medals respectively since 1999, (the year the International Fencing Federation added women’s saber to the World Championships), Russia and the USA are joined by Italy, Hungary, and Germany to make the Top 5 as illustrated in the accompanying graph below. Ukraine and France have given ground to Korea, Japan, and Mexico in recent years.

The legendary American, Mariel Zagunis paved the way for a generation of cadet women saber fencers, with a gold, bronze and 5th place medal in the 2000-2002 period. This was followed by Rebecca Ward, who won two gold, a bronze, and 5th place medal over the period, 2004-2007. In all, 15 or 45% of US cadet women saber fencers have won a Top 8 medal at the Cadet World Championships since 1999.

Russia and the USA again sit atop the leaderboard, but in this case, in junior women’s saber as shown in the graph below. With 24 and 20 Top 8 medals respectively, they are joined by Italy, France, Ukraine, and Hungary to make the Top 5, (Ukraine & Hungary are tied with twelve Top 8 medals).

The path was paved again by Mariel Zagunis, who won two gold, one silver, and a 6th place medal over the period 2001-2005. Her team-mate, Sada Jacobson won a gold, silver and a bronze medal in 2001, 2002 and 2003. In more recent years, Rebecca Ward (2005, 2006, 2007) and Sage Palmedo (2014, 2015) added three and two medals respectively to the total US medal count. In all, 11 or 48% of US junior women saber fencers have won a Top 8 medal at the Junior World Championships since 1999.

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