Fencing: Lei wins for China as European giants fall



The article I choose to respond to is about how China and several other non-western nations challenged western dominance in fencing in the London Olympics. The article naturally focuses on the gold medal winner in foil, Lei Sheng and a brief overview of his journey to Olympic gold. It also briefly touches on how this Olympics was dominated by breakthrough performances by nations that typically don’t perform as strongly. The article also mentions the fact that Lei’s story is even more remarkable as he was charged with using an illegal substance shortly before the Beijing Olympics, although it seems that this was accidental. The intensity of competition in Chinese is something that interests me as a result, and the prevalence of cheating might be something worth examining in my study. Perhaps seeing if the competitive culture of Chinese fencing is any different from that of other sports in China or not. The article was also interesting as it seemed to convey Chinese dominance in foil, but little mention of comparative Chinese success in sabre or my weapon, epee. I know from the Olympics that China did have strong showings in the various weapons, so I think it would be interesting to examine which weapon is the most popular in Chinese fencing and what the dynamics are between competitors in each of the three different weapons. Coming off the success of the London Olympics, it should be interesting to see if that has triggered an increase in domestic competitiveness and if it has changed the popularity of the types of weapons in any way.

In terms of a field site, the information I’ve come across seems to suggest the participation in fencing is mainly regulated to college campuses. Tsinghua appears to have a fencing team, and so I think their facilities would be the most convenient to access. Naturally though, if I am able to go to tournaments or other facilities, I would want to expand my scope to include those. It would probably be difficult to get meaningful information on a more broad understanding of Chinese fencing without access to at least some of these external sites.  That being said, most fencing teams do have a decent amount of internal competition, so even if I am limited in my interactions outside of the team I still should be able to get meaningful information and experiences. As of now it has been difficult to find much information about competing in China, besides the performance of individual international athletes but I’m sure that making contact with an actual team will make access to that information much easier. The final question is how many tournaments are going on, as at least in the USA, the main season for tournaments is the spring. There should be at least some local competitions however even if there aren’t any major events.