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For latest news go to www.fie.ch or www.olympic.orgOLYMPIC REVIEW69At just 19 years old, MarielZagunis bridged a 100-yeargap in the women's sabre inAthens. She beat Tan Xue, of China, 15-9, to win theUnited States a gold medal in fencing for the first timesince Albertson van der Postat the St Louis Games in1904. As Zagunis triumphed,she was at first lost for words: "I don't even know what to say right now,"she said, before adding: "I'm so happy."France won team gold inthe men's épée, inspired bybrothers Fabrice and JeromeJeannet in a 43-32 defeatover Hungary. Defendingchampions Russia retainedthe women's team épée with a 34-28 victory overGermany.When Timea Nagy, ofHungary, won the women'sépée for the second Games insuccession, she insisted shewould not be back for Beijing.Nagy, who beatFrance's LauraFlessel-Colovic, 15-10, said: "I won't be goingto the next Games. I want to concentrate on increasingmy family. I will speak with my husband and decidewhat to do."Times change, and thelure of the Olympic Gameshas seen the mother-of-twonow planning to chase a hat-trick of Olympic titles in2008, when she will be 38years old.Fencing is one the few sports that have beenpart of all editions of the modern OlympicGames. The sport of fencing today is thedevelopment of a form of combat that waspractised as long ago as 1190 BC, as depictedby carvings in the temple of Madinet-Habu nearLuxor in Egypt. While the majority of Olympicsports remained amateur until 30 years ago,fencing recognised professionals as early as the1896 Athens Games, when Baron Pierre deCoubertin made special arrangements for thoseknown as the "masters" to take part. Women'sfencing made its debut with the foil at the ParisGames in 1924. The sport has three differentelements; the foil, the épée and the sabre.Women's épée and sabre were introduced at the1996 Atlanta and 2004 Athens Gamesrespectively. The foil has a flexible blade,compared to the épée where competitors muststrike with the tip of the tougher blade. Thesabre has an edged tip and just touching youropponent with the blade earns a hit. Below: An épée bout from the 1928 GamesFORMATWith 10 gold medals on offer, the main changefor Beijing sees women's team foil and women'steam sabre replacing men's team foil andwomen's team épée. Men's team épée hasbeen selected while a vote for the second men'steam event made by members of the FédérationInternationale d'Escrime (FIE) saw sabreselected ahead of foil by 45 votes to 20. Eachcompetition has a single-elimination format.Teams consist of three fencers, and each oneduels each member of the opposing team.Eight countries progress to the Games: thetop four in the world rankings as of 31 March2008 and the other half being the highestranked teams from the Americas, Europe,Asia/Oceania and Africa, excluding those whohad already qualified. In Beijing, for the first time in the history ofOlympic fencing, a new video refereeing systemwill be used. VENUEFencing will take place at the NationalConference Centre, which will be one of thebusiest areas during the Games. Not only will italso be staging the fencing and shootingdisciplines of the modern pentathlon, it is alsothe home to the International Broadcast Centreand the Main Press Centre. The centre is in theOlympic Green, the 1,135 hectare area wherehalf of the venues, including the NationalStadium and the Olympic Village are based. It isa temporary venue - once the Games are over,Beijing authorities plan to use the facilities forexhibitions and conventions.CONTENDERSAn interesting pattern is emerging in thecountdown to Beijing: at the 2006 WorldFencing Championships that were staged inTurin in September andOctober 2006, being thecurrent Olympic championdid not guarantee furthersuccess. Wang Lei, of China,won a silver medal in the épée at Athens2004 but went one better at the WorldChampionships to establish an importantmarker before his country hosts the Games.He beat Joaquim Videira, of Portugal, 6-5 inthe final. France dominated the men's teamevents, winning all three classes.The women's sabre showed fencing is asport where youth is no barrier. Zagunis wasbeaten by her 17-year-old teammate RebeccaWard 15-11 in the final. Ward completed anamazing 2006 when she secured world titlesin the cadet, junior, junior team and seniordivisions, but Zagunis remains the world No. 1on rankings. Their duel in Beijing could besomething special.Losing to a teammate was nothing new atthe World Championships because in the foil,Italy's Valentina Vezzali, the Olympic championin Sydney in 2000 and Athens in 2004, wasbeaten 7-6 by Margherita Granbassi.Above: Wang Lei, men's épée WorldChampion and Athens silver medallistBelow: Wang (crouching) on the attackATHENSREVIEWFENCING

70OLYMPIC REVIEWFor latest news go to www.ihf.info or www.olympic.orgThe men andwomen'scompetitions bothproduced thrilling matches. Inthe men's event, Croatia, theworld champions, hit back aftertrailing 12-11 at half-timeagainst Germany to win 26-24and achieve their first and onlygold medal on the finalafternoon of these Games. It was a victory inspired byMirza Dzomba, who is generallyregarded as the best right-winger in the world. He scored nine times from10 shots as Croatia regainedthe title they had won at theAtlanta Games in 1996. Russiaearned bronze with a 28-26victory over Hungary.Denmark'swomen made it ahat-trick of Olympictitles by beating South Korea -in a game decided on penaltieswhen the teams could not be separated after two overtime periods. It was a repeat of the finalfrom Atlanta, which Denmarkwon 37-33 in extra time andthis clash was equally close.South Korea, gold medallists in1988 and 1992, thoughtvictory was theirs when theyled 34-33 before, with justeight seconds remaining,Katrine Fruelund equalised.Her teammate HenrietteMikkelsen converted the keygoal in the shoot-out whereDanish goalkeeper KarinOernhoej Mortensen made twosaves. Ukraine beat France 21-18 to win bronze.Handball has been on the Olympic Gamesprogramme since Munich 1972. It was fittingthat it returned to the Games in Germanybecause it had previously been a medal sport inBerlin 36 years earlier. At the time it was an 11-a-side sport, which was played outdoors;now it is seven-a-side, played indoors andmakes for great thrills and spills because of thespeed of a game developed on the format offootball, with the use of hands replacing feet.This form of handball was created in Europeancountries Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Germanyand Sweden but history tells us that the sportitself is one of the oldest in the world. Even inThe Odyssey, written by Homer in around 600BC, there is mention of a game to mirror that ofhandball. Yugoslavia's men won the first Olympichandball gold medal and while the USSRbecame the first women champions in Montrealin 1976, Denmark has won the women'scompetition at the last three Games.Above left: The USSR take on Korea during themen's final in Seoul in 1988FORMATIn Beijing the number of women's teams hasincreased from 10 to 12, on a par with the men.Qualifying has started for both men and women,with 11 places available alongside the hosts.Germany, as winner of this year's WorldChampionship, and women's Europeanchampions Norway, have already secured their places.Half of the spots in each gender will bedecided at Olympic qualifying tournaments thisyear and next with continental competitions,such as the Pan-American Games, whereprogress to Beijing is guaranteed for thewinners. Since the Olympic Games in Athens in2004, the International Handball Federation (IHF)has approved 12 changes in the rules, overissues including timeouts and substitutions,which will come into operation in Beijing. It wasalso confirmed that squad numbers will be 14.VENUEHandball will take place in two venues at theOlympic Green: the National Indoor Stadium andthe Olympic Sports Centre Gymnasium. Thestadium is one of 12 new arenas being built forthe Games and is one of the most impressive,constructed to resemble a folding Chinese fan.It will have a capacity of 19,000 and willalso stage artistic gymnastics and trampolineand when the Games are over, will be used as agymnasium for local residents and be availablefor cultural and entertainment programmes.The sports centre venue is located towardsthe south of the Olympic Green - the indoorstadium is close to the centre - and is anexisting construction which is being renovated,increasing its capacity from 6,000 to 7,000,with the majority of seating at each side.CONTENDERSGermany, the runners-up from Athens, haveestablished themselves as one of thefavourites again as the clock ticks towardsBeijing. In February thisyear, Germany won theWorld Championship onhome soil in Cologne whenthey beat Poland 29-24 inthe final to secure their route to Beijing, eventhough they lost their goalkeeper HenningFritz through injury during the match.It was the first time a combined German team had triumphed in this eventsince 1938 and the first since West Germanywere champions in 1978 and the omens aregood for the Germans. Defending Olympicchampions Croatia were also the worldchampions when they arrived at Athens in 2004. France, who knocked out Croatia in thequarter-finals, were beaten by Germany in thesemi-finals and then lost to Denmark in thethird/fourth place match 34-27.The women's World Championship takesplace in France in December and will give astrong indication of the likely Beijingcontenders.Top: Hungary and France will be contendersin the women's event Below: Germany arethe new men's world championsATHENSREVIEWHANDBALL