Aladar Gerevich

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Aladar Gerevich

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Sports fans often debate which athlete is the greatest of all time.  Babe Ruth or Willie Mays?  Peyton Manning or Tom Brady?  There is no debate about fencing’s GOAT; that title belongs to Aladar Gerevich.

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Competitive fencing is one of five activities which have been featured in every one of the modern Olympic Games, which date back to 1896, along with athletics [running/walking], cycling, swimming and gymnastics.  Competitions are conducted on a 45 x 6 foot platform called a piste and ten events [six individual and four team] are contested.  The basic goal of fencing is to score the most hits [or touches] on your opponent with your weapon.  A single competition, or bout, is conducted in three 3-minute sessions.  In individual bouts, the first person to score 15 hits [or has the most hits at the end of the bout] wins, while team bouts require 45 points to win.  What counts as a hit depends on the kind of weapon being used—foil, epee or sabre.  Each weapon targets a different area of the body and only certain parts of the weapon can be used to score a touch.  The foil is the lightest fencing weapon and is flexible.  The target for foil is the torso and only the tip may be used to score a touch.  The sabre is the modern-day cavalry sword and is heavier than the foil.  A sabre hit only counts if it is above the waist and points may be scored by touching with either the tip or side edges of the weapon.  The epee is the heaviest of the three fencing weapons.  Like the foil, a touch only counts if it is made with the tip of the epee and counts anywhere on the body.

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Aladar Gerevich was born in the central Hungarian town of Jaszbereny on this date in 1910.  As a young boy, Gerevich was taught to fence by his father and later studied under the great Italian master Italo Santelli.  At 22, he competed in his first Olympics–the 1932 Games held in Los Angeles—where he won a gold medal in Men’s Team Sabre.  Four years later, Gerevich again won team sabre gold while also capturing the bronze medal in Individual Sabre.  The Olympic Games postponed in 1940 or 1944 due to World War II and Gerevich returned to international competition at the 1948 London Games, winning 19 of 20 bouts en route to taking gold medals in Individual and Team Sabre.  Gerevich won three medals at the 1952 Helsinki Games, including gold in Team Sabre, silver in Individual Sabre and bronze in Team Foil.  In the Olympic Games of 1956 and 1960, he led Hungary to gold medals in the Team Sabre events, the country’s seventh straight title in that event, after missing the finals in Individual Sabre by a single touch.  Gerevich retired following the 1960 Rome Games.

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Aladar Gerevich played a leading role in Hungary’s 36-year dominance of Olympic sabre competition, remaining unbeaten in every Olympics from 1928 to 1960.  He is the only person to win a gold medal in the same sport at six different Olympic Games and is the greatest swordsman ever.  Gerevich earned seven gold, one silver and one bronze Olympic medals and won nine world championships competing for Hungary’s sabre teams.  Mr. Gerevich was the greatest technician ever, winning three individual world championships in sabre along with an Olympic bronze medal in Team Foil.  He won gold medals 28  years apart–at the Olympic Games in 1932 and 1960–a record matched by Sir Mark Todd, who won gold in equestrian eventing [dressage, cross-country, show jumping] in the 1984 and 2012 Games.  After being told by the Olympic Committee prior to the Rome Games of 1960 that, at 50 he was too old to compete, Gerevich challenged and defeated the entire Hungarian fencing team to individual matches.  Gerevich won every match, made the squad and helped Hungary win the team completion in sabre.  It would be the final gold medal of his brilliant career and the last sabre team gold for Hungary.  Gerevich comes from a fencing family—his wife, son and father-in-law won Olympic medals—and is the most decorated swordsman in Olympic history.  Had the Games been held in 1940 and 1944,  Mr. Gerevich would have undoubtedly added to his medal collection.  After retiring he coached fencing in Budapest, where he died at age 81.

Touche is often used to mean, “You make an excellent point; I’ll give you credit for that.”  It comes from the sport of fencing, and literally means “touched” in French—as in “Touched by the other fencer.  Point scored!”


– Author Unknown
Larisa Latynina
Lindsey Vonn
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