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COVID-19 Competition Modifications, Mask Mandates and National Events Updates

10/29/2020, 10:30am CDT
By Nicole Jomantas

With tournaments resuming over the coming weeks and months, USA Fencing’s top priority is to provide a safe environment for our athletes, tournament staff, volunteers, coaches and family members.

The Return to Competition began with the sanctioning of local events in August, followed by regional events in October and national tournaments in 2021. USA Fencing would like to thank the regional tournament organizers who are working tirelessly to make sure that these events are held safely.

National Events Schedule

Due to the increase of COVID-19 cases throughout the nation, USA Fencing has made the difficult decision to postpone the start of the 2020-21 national events season until February 2021.

The first national level event will be held beginning in February and continuing through June with the National Championships and July Challenge which will remain as previously scheduled from July 3-12 in Philadelphia, Pa.

A tournament task force is currently examining the event schedule and combinations which will be released in the coming weeks. This task force includes national events staff and tournament committee members as well as representatives from the athlete, coach, referee and club communities.

As the situation with COVID-19 continues to evolve, USA Fencing will continue to revise and assess tournament protocol, format and structure for the season. In November, a survey will be sent to USA Fencing members, including athletes and staff, regarding interest in competition opportunities.

Although the event schedule is being finalized by the task force, the Junior Olympic Championships will be moved from February to Summer Nationals. The birth years for junior and cadet will remain the same throughout the 2020-21 season and will not change until Aug. 1, 2021. 

Qualifying paths to championship events are being updated as well and will be announced in the coming weeks.

Regional events, including Super Youth Circuit tournaments, will remain as scheduled. Any updates to the regional events calendar due to local or state guidelines can be found at The Super Junior and Cadet Circuit calendar will be released with the national events calendar in the coming weeks. 

Several key changes will be implemented, effective immediately, in order to protect the health and safety of participants at all tournaments sanctioned by USA Fencing. These changes were implemented through the advice and guidance of a team of experts, including infectious disease specialists from The Mount Sinai Department of Rehabilitation and Human Performance Hospital as well as USA Fencing sports medicine staff, representatives of the Referees’ Commission and athlete representatives, including 2008 Olympic team silver medalist Dr. Emily Cross (New York City, N.Y.), 2018 Senior World Team Champion Kat Holmes (Washington, D.C.) and 2019 Senior World Team member Kamali Thompson (Teaneck, N.J.)

Competition Modifications

Mask Mandates

All attendees at USA Fencing sanctioned tournaments will be required to wear a mask at all times, including athletes during competition.

Face coverings must be two-layer cloth masks or surgical face coverings. Single-layer gaiters, bandannas, masks with vents and inserts that clip into the fencing mask and do not fully contact the athlete's face are not permitted.

Athletes who do not comply with this policy will not be allowed to compete. Other individuals, including spectators and coaches, who do not wear a mask or face covering will be assessed a Group 3 penalty for “any person not on strip disturbing order” which includes a yellow card warning for the first infraction and a black card resulting in expulsion from the venue for a second infraction. There will be no exceptions, for athletes or any other tournament attendee, to the mask mandate.

Frequently Asked Questions on Mask Wearing During Fencing or Other Exercise 


Research has shown that virus transmission occurs at higher rates when individuals scream or yell due to the increased propulsion of droplets through the air. Accordingly, yelling after a touch, or at any time during a bout, will be prohibited. As this is a significant change to a habit for many fencers, referees are advised to verbally warn fencers rather than issuing an immediate penalty. If, after warnings, the referee determines an athlete is deliberately violating the reminder not to scream, the referee can award a Group 1 penalty for refusal to obey the referee resulting in a yellow card for the first infraction and red cards for subsequent infractions. The referee also has the authority to award a Group 3 penalty for disturbing order on the strip which results in a red card for the first infraction and a black card and exclusion from the tournament for subsequent infractions.


Athletes are to salute at the conclusion of a bout in lieu of shaking hands with each other, the referee or coaches.

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