Final Rio team spots up for grabs in Belgium

This weekend sees the final team fencing spots at the Rio Olympics filled, as the women’s sabre qualification events draw to a close with the Sint-Niklaas World Cup in Belgium.

With the lineups for the other three team disciplines at the Games – men’s and women’s épée and men’s foil – already determined, the last Olympic places are to be fought over tooth and nail.

The fate of the team event is significant for the entire Olympic fencing program because up to three of four fencers nominated to represent their National Federation are also entered into the individual disciplines, leaving limited places up for grabs via other routes.

Going into Belgium this weekend, Russia, Ukraine and France have already done enough to secure a top four finish in the women’s team sabre ranking list and thus automatic Rio qualification.

The United States sits in fourth and can only be bumped into fifth - where it would qualify anyway as the top Pan-Am nation - if it finishes outside the top seven and fifth-placed South Korea wins the event. The knock-on effects of that scenario are that Mexico would lose the Pan-Am spot and China would claim South Korea’s berth as Asia’s top country.

The race for the European zonal Olympic berth, meanwhile, is a straight fight between Italy and Poland. However, should no African team achieve the qualification minimum, Europe will get that slot and both nations will be competing in Brazil.

The women’s team sabre event is being held in the Sportcentrum De Witte Molen, Azalealaan 29, 9100 Sint-Niklaas, where a total of 166 sabre fencers from 39 countries will compete.

Fencers who miss out on qualification by the team route will have chance to qualify for the individual event at the women’s sabre Grand Prix in Seoul, South Korea, March 25-26.

Elsewhere this weekend, fencers in the men’s individual sabre discipline will be competing in the penultimate Olympic qualifying event in Warsaw, Poland.

Men’s team sabre is rotated off the Olympic program this year along with women’s team foil, so male sabre fencers wishing to compete in the individual event in Rio will complete their qualification period at the Grand Prix in Seoul.

The Polish capital will see 189 fencers from 43 countries descend on the Pileckiego Street , no 122 Warsaw. Both World Cup stages are Feb. 19-21.

An explanation of the qualifying procedure can be found here.

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