Fencing is one of the more obscure and lesser-known sports in the Olympics.
Being so niche, it doesn’t command the same level of views and advertising revenue that a more popular sport such as basketball can bring.
Because of this there is less money in the sport in general.
Despite this, it is still possible to make money fencing and to fence professionally as your full time occupation so long as you reach a high enough level.
There are a few ways that professional fencers are paid from fencing, which we will go into below.
How fencers make money:
In many countries, fencers are part of a funded program for elite sport.
France, Germany, Italy, Russia, Korea, and Hong Kong for example all have systems where fencers who are deemed to be elite sportsmen and sportswomen receive funding from the government.
This allows them to train with the other elite fencers for both their physical conditioning training and their fencing matches.
In addition to having access to sports facilities they generally receive a government salary.
This system is usually but not always done through the military or police force, for example fencers will be part of the special sport soldier programme, or part of the police service or forestry service or the air force.
They technically work there as a police officer or a soldier, but in reality they train and compete in fencing events and for their physical conditioning full time instead of normal duties.
This area is the biggest source of professional fencers, making up around 1000 to 1500 professional full time fencers in the world.
International Fencing Federation athlete database.
Not only are the top fencers in a country in these programmes, but also the up and coming junior fencers will often be involved, and fencers who are coming from junior to senior events looking to develop and start achieving high level senior results at international competitions.
Fencing Camps In The Off-Season
The international fencing competition season runs from September to July.
Often during the off-season, high profile fencers will run fencing camps or fencing events where kids (or adults) can train with them and get lessons with them.
Olympic champions and so on will usually run this camp for a week or two, which gives entrants a chance to fence with them and do some training with them, not to mention meet the other people training there and see the city the camp is being held in.
The fencers running the camp receive payment from the fee to join the camp.
Prizes For Winning Major Tournaments
Some countries offer a cash prize if one of their competitors wins a major title on top of any prize money offered for winning.
The Tokyo men’s foil Olympic champion for example won approximately $600,000 in prize money from his government.
The second place finisher for men’s foil won around $80,000 from his government.
Different countries would have different amounts and different policies for results, but often will give cash incentives for their team members to win World Championship titles and Olympic medals.
This is not very reliable however, and so the other methods in this article are used as a more steady income.
Individual And Group Coaching
Fencers who have made it to the Olympics are in high demand to provide individual coaching to fencers who want to reach a high level in the future, or to train groups in the way they train themselves.
Olympians are usually too busy training for fencing, taking care of physical conditioning, and competing internationally to coach full time.
They can normally find some availability to coach in fencing clubs, once a week or so on, not to mention that the fencing club will be flexible with the fact that they have to compete internationally.
This helps to raise the profile of a fencing club if an Olympian coaches there or trains there, and so elite fencers can get a good income from offering lessons and so on to interested fencers.
An example of this would be 2016 Olympic champion Daniele Garozzo giving a lesson here: Lesson with Daniele Garozzo (01/08/2017).
You’ll also notice that the video taken by his student is from August, which is the off-season.
Some fencers have used their profile as athletes to build large social media followings.
This lets them work as models for magazines and as online influencers, landing brand deals and sponsorship deals.
Some examples of fencers who have built an online following would be:
As Olympic fencers normally don’t work a nine-to-five job, it means that they can do occasional events or fashion modeling for brands.
In addition, since elite fencers spend so much time working on their physical fitness and conditioning, they are in extremely good shape.
This leads fencers to be involved in fashion or fitness modeling surprisingly often.
This can happen even more as an athlete gains a following or a national profile following a big result, such as making it to the Olympics for the first time, bringing home a medal, winning a World Championship, and so on.
For example, USA team member Race Imboden as a fencer and as a model:
Fencing has nowhere near as big a professional system as major sports like soccer, basketball, or baseball have, but it is possible to be a professional full time fencer.
Many people currently do work as full time fencers, and while it is difficult to get an exact number on exactly how many, there are at least 1000 fencers currently in elite sport programmes around the world.
The real number is likely to be much higher, at least 2000.
This isn’t counting fencers in the NCAA and so on, which has its own system or fencers competing, some of whom are Olympic level such as Nick Itkin for the USA or Mohammed Hamza for Egypt.
Just like other sports of course, making a living and doing the sport of fencing as your full time job means that you have to develop your talent and get some high level results!
But as shown here, you normally don’t have to be the Olympic champion to be a full time fencer, just good enough to enter the sports development programme of the nation you represent.