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A Visual History of the Countries that Have Dominated Women’s Saber at the Senior World Fencing Championships 1999-2015

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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 here. We plan to provide a visualization history for each of the six gender-weapons before the World Championships.

In our visualization, we have drawn a timeline showing rolling five-year total Top 8 results for the dominant women’s saber 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 saber 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 saber 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 interactive graph below to highlight the comparative data for each country. Only data for Top 16 countries with Top 8 results are provided in the graph. Sixty-eight countries have been represented in women’s saber events since 1999.

Senior Women’s Saber

Since 1999, Russia has dominated women’s saber at the Senior World Fencing Championships with 23 Top 8 results, followed by Italy and USA with 17 Top 8 finishers, apiece. The countries are joined by France, Poland, and Ukraine to round out the Top 5 foil countries, as illustrated in the graph below (Poland and Ukraine are tied for 5th with seven Top 8 finishes apiece). 

During the early 2000’s, Russia, Italy, USA and France captured about 70% of the Top 8 results, but their share has declined to about 48% in recent years, paving the way for Ukraine to become a major force in women’s saber. Scroll over the interactive graph to highlight details.

Since 1999, Team USA has been represented by 15 fencers who have entered the women’s individual saber event on 55 occasions as listed in the table below. In all, five U.S. saber fencers have finished in the Top 8 at the World Championships over the period. Mariel Zagunis won the World Championship in 2009 and 2010 and silver in 2006, 2011 and 2014.  She also came 5th in 2007 and 2013 and 7th in 2003.  Sada Jacobson had five Top 8 finishers over the period.

The ranking of Team USA Women’s Saber members by the number of Senior World Fencing Championships attended for the individual competition is provided in the accompanying graph. Mariel Zagunis is ranked #1 with thirteen Senior World Fencing Championship appearances over a sixteen-year period, 2000-2015. Dagmara Wozniak is ranked 2nd with seven appearances and Sada Jacobson is ranked 3rd with six appearances.

Ranking of Team USA Senior Women’s Saber Fencers by Number of Senior World Fencing Championships Attended for Individual Competition 199-2012

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