If you are interested in fencing as a sport, you most probably want to know who the greatest fencing athletes are. To determine this is not as easy as it seems. There are three disciplines: foil, saber, and epee, and each have its own rankings.
Our list of the current top 10 fencers globally is based on how many gold medals the fencer has won. The list doesn’t differentiate between the disciplines. We have also only taken the 10 highest ranked fencers in each discipline in the most updated lists of the International Fencing Federation in consideration.
Thus, athletes like Edoardo Mangiarotti, who has been one of the greatest Olympic Games fencers ever with his 39 Olympic and World Championship titles between 1936 and 1960, are not on our list. The list reflects the current greatest fencing athletes.
- Gu Bon-Gil – 13 Wins
- Lee Kiefer – 14 Wins
- Elisa Di Francisca – 19 Wins
- Ana Maria Popescu – 20 Wins
- Sofya Velikaya – 20 Wins
- Aroanna Errigo – 21 Wins
- Inna Deriglazova – 25 Wins
- Andrea Cassara – 31 Wins
- Mariel Zagunis – 34 Wins
- Olga Kharlan – 40 Wins
10. Gu Bon-Gil – 13 Wins
This 31-year old athlete from Korea is, with his 13 wins, number 10 on our list. He participates in the saber discipline and ranks number 9 in this discipline on the International Fencing Federation’s (FIE) list. He has already won 7 gold medals at the World Cup and 6 at Zone Championships.
Gu Bon-Gil started with fencing in 2002 in Daegu in Korea while he was in middle school. The fencing coach at the school encouraged him to take up the sport. They needed him for the school’s saber team as they were short of members. Currently, he is part of the Korea Sports Promotion Foundation.
His coaches are Kim Du-Hong on a club and national level and Cho Jong-Hyung on a national level. In 2019 he received the Cheongryong Medal, which is the highest order of sports merit in the Republic of Korea. In 2020 he was inducted into the FIE’s Hall of Fame.
9. Lee Kiefer – 14 Wins
Our number 9 on the list is the 26-year old American Lee Kiefer with her 14 wins. She participates in the foil discipline and ranks number 5 in this discipline on the FIE’s list. She already has won 3 gold medals at the World Cup, 2 at Grand Prix tournaments, and 9 at Zone Championships.
She began fencing at age five. After her father had not participated in the sport for years, she saw him fencing in a local tournament when she was five. She was interested, and her father started to teach her the basics.
In 2017 she became the first USA female foil fencer to be ranked number one by FIE. Currently, she is part of the Team Bluegrass Fencers Club in Lexington, USA. Her coaches are Amgad Khazbak on a club and personal level and Buckie Leach on a national level.
8. Elisa Di Francisca – 19 Wins
The 38-year old Italian, Elisa Di Francisca, is our number 8 with her 19 wins. As foil discipline fencer, she ranks number 3 on FIE’s list. She has already won 1 gold at the Olympic Games, 8 at the World Cup, 1 at the World Championships, 4 at Grand Prix tournaments, and 5 at Zone Championships.
She grew up in Jesi, Italy. There is a long tradition of fencing in Jesi, and she started at the age of seven. She also took dance classes for a couple of years but left that to concentrate on fencing.
She has decided not to participate in the 2020 Olympics, but with the change of dates due to the Corna-19 pandemic, she could perhaps look at her options again.
7. Ana Maria Popescu – 20 Wins
This 38-year old fencer from Romania is with her 20 wins number 7 on our list. She participates in the epee discipline and ranks number 1 in this discipline on the FIE list. She has won 10 gold medals at the World Cup, 8 at Grand Prix tournaments, and 2 at Zone and other championships.
Her parents wanted her to take up a sport, and she initially played tennis. But after she had gone with her brother to his club’s fencing hall, she changed from tennis to fencing in 1996. After only 6 months of training, she became the national champion in her age group.
Currently, she is part of Team CSA Steaua Bucuresti: Romania. In 2016 she was rewarded the Sports Merit Order Class 1 by the government of Romania.
6. Sofya Velikaya – 20 Wins
Sofya Velikaya, the 35-year old Russian fencer, is our number 6 with her 20 wins. As a saber discipline fencer, she ranks number 2 on FIE’s list. She has won 7 World Cup gold medals, 2 at the World Championships, 7 at Grand Prix tournaments, and 4 at Zone Championships.
She began fencing at age 14 in Almaty, Kazakhstan. She followed her brother, who had already been involved in fencing. Although it was a little bit late to start fencing at 14, she did very well after about two years of training.
She is currently part of the Central Sports Army Club in Russia, and her coach is Dmitry Glotov. In 2015 she was named Female Athlete of the Year in the Russian Federation, and she received the Order of Honor from the president of the Russian Federation.
5. Aroanna Errigo – 21 Wins
With her 21 wins, the 32-years old Italian athlete Aroanna Errigo earns her 5th place on our list. As foil fencer, she ranks number 4 on the FIE list. Her gold medals include 10 at World Cups, 2 at World Championships, 2 at Grand Prix tournaments, and 2 at Zone Championships.
At the age of six, her mother took her to a fencing club in Monza, Italy, and she fell immediately in love with the sport. In 2012 she received the Golden Necklace of Sports Merit in Italy.
After the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, she started to compete in the saber discipline. She has this dream to compete in the two disciplines at the Olympic Games in Tokyo.
4. Inna Deriglazova – 25 Wins
Our number 4 on our list is another Russian athlete, Inna Deriglazova. She is 30- years of age and participates in the foil discipline. Her 25 Gold Medals include 1 Olympic medal, 13 World Cup medals, 3 World Championship gold medals, 6 Grand Prix titles, and 2 Zone Championship wins.
When she was eight years old, a fencing coach came to her school and recommended fencing as a sport. She went for training out of curiosity as she wanted to be trained in rhythmic gymnastics. But she fell in love with fencing and started serious training in Kurchatov at the age of ten.
She is currently part of the Central Sports Army Club in Russia. Her trainers are Ildar Mavlyutov and Lidia Safiullina. In recognition of her gold medal at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, she was rewarded with the Order of Friendship and the Medal for Military Prowess (first grade) in the Russian Federation.
3. Andrea Cassara – 31 Wins
With his 31 wins, Andrea Cassara is one of only two male fencers who’ve been included in our list. This 37-year old Italian athlete is ranked number 4 on FIE’s foil-discipline list. He has won 17 World Cup, 1 World Championship, 2 Zone Championship, and 11 Grand Prix gold medals.
He started with fencing at age five as it was the nearest sports club to his home. Currently, he is part of CS Carabinieri: Italy. Interestingly, he incorporates boxing into his training schedule to enhance his fencing skills.
He received the Collare d’Oro from the Italian Olympic Committee in 2003, 2015, 2017, and 2018. In 2004 he was also named Commander of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic.
2. Mariel Zagunis – 34 Wins
The runner-up on our list is the 36-year old USA athlete, Mariel Zagunis. She has won 34 gold medals. She won gold medals at 2 Olympics, 16 World Cups, 2 World Championships, 7 Grand Prix tournaments, and 7 Zone and other tournaments. She is ranked number 9 on the FIE list for the saber discipline.
Her brother was a fencer, and she always tagged along to see him participate. At age ten, she decided she also wanted to be a fencer and started training in the saber discipline. Currently, she is with the Oregon Fencing Alliance: Portland, OR, USA.
She has received many awards and honors, and in 2013 she was inducted into the FIE Hall of Fame. In 2010 she was named Athlete of the Decade by the University of Notre Dame in the USA. She also won the US Fencing Athlete of the Year award in 2010.
1. Olga Kharlan – 40 Wins
Olga Kharlan, the 30-year old Ukrainian fencer, earned her place as our top fencer with her 40 wins. She is also ranked number 1 in the saber discipline by the FIE. She has won gold at 13 World Cups, 4 World Championships, 16 Grand Prix tournaments and 7 Zone Championships, and other tournaments.
As a child, she was doing dancing, but it became too expensive for her parents. Her godfather encouraged her to switch to fencing. She started with fencing at age ten in Mykolayiv, Ukraine. Currently, she is part of the Central Sports Club of the Armed Forces: Ukraine. She has three coaches, namely Yury Marchenko, Andrea Terenzio, and Oleh Shturbabin.
At the Ukrainian Heroes of the Sports Awards in 2009, 2014, 2016, and 2017 she was named Female Athlete of the Year. In 2020 she received the title of Honored Master of Sport in Ukraine.
When you look at the list of the current 10 top fencers globally, it becomes clear that it is a sport where you have to start at a very young age to really get to the top after 10 to 20 years. Interestingly, only 2 male fencers are on our list.