A roadmap to follow for the fencing competition during the Paris Olympics:

Athletes to Watch

—Olga Kharlan, Ukraine: One of Ukraine’s best hopes for Olympic success against the backdrop of war, Kharlan had a unique route to the Paris Games. Kharlan was drawn against Russian fencer Anna Smirnova at last year’s world championships. Smirnova protested after Kharlan refused to shake her hand, and the Ukrainian was disqualified. The International Olympic Committee awarded Kharlan a spot in Paris anyway.

—Lee Kiefer and Gerek Meinhardt, United States: Kiefer is the reigning women’s foil gold medalist, Meinhardt is a two-time bronze medalist in men’s team foil, and together they are fencing’s power couple. Married since 2019, Kiefer and Meinhardt both put medical school at the University of Kentucky on hold to train for the Olympics but will go back next year.

—Aron Szilagyi, Hungary: On one of the greatest runs in Olympic history, Szilagyi is aiming for a record fourth title in men’s saber after winning the gold medal at the London, Rio de Janeiro and Tokyo Olympics. Szilagyi hasn’t lost an individual bout at the Olympics since Beijing 2008.

Storylines to Follow

—Russian fencers won three gold medals in Tokyo but didn’t qualify any athletes for Paris. That could shake up the medal table. Top Russian fencers, including saber gold medalist Sofia Pozdniakova, were blocked from qualifying events under International Olympic Committee rules because they serve in the Russian military. Other Russians competed in some qualifiers but weren’t successful.

—Fencing is never far away from controversy, especially in fast-moving saber fights, where points can be won in a fraction of a second and much is left up to a referee’s judgement. USA Fencing opened an investigation in March into “potential bout manipulation” in saber fights after complaints that allegedly biased refereeing could have affected qualification for the Olympics. It said in April that two referees were suspended, but there was “no evidence that individual U.S. fencers were actively involved in manipulating their own bouts as athletes.”

Key Dates

Fencing runs from July 27 through Aug. 4 with at least one final every day.

Reigning Olympic Champions

—Men’s foil: Cheung Ka Long, Hong Kong.

—Men’s team foil: France.

—Men’s epee: Romain Cannone, France.

—Men’s team epee: Japan.

—Men’s saber: Aron Szilagyi, Hungary.

—Men’s team saber: South Korea.

—Women’s foil: Lee Kiefer, United States.

—Women’s team foil: ROC.

—Women’s epee: Sun Yiwen, China.

—Women’s team epee: Estonia.

—Women’s saber: Sofia Pozdniakova, ROC.

—Women’s team saber: ROC.

___

AP Olympics coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/2024-paris-olympic-games