Italian fencing maestro
No fencer in history has won more medals in major competition than Eduardo Mangiarotti. Over the course of five editions of the Olympic Games between 1936 and 1960, he amassed 13 medals, six of them gold, in the épée and foil, making him Italy’s most successful ever Olympian. He also won 26 world championship medals (including 14 gold).
Born near Milan (ITA) in April 1919, Mangiarotti grew up in a famous fencing family. His father Giuseppe was a fencing master who was 17 times national épée champion and represented Italy at the 1908 Olympic Games in London. Like Eduardo, his two brothers, Mario and Dario also followed in their fathers footsteps, and the latter also went on to enjoy a successful fencing career, winning three Olympic and nine world championship medals. Mangiarotti Snr encouraged all of his children to master various sporting activities including swimming, running and cycling. He also encouraged the naturally right-handed Eduardo to make use of his left arm, to enable him to surprise his opponents.
Three decades at the top
Chosen to represent Italy at the 1936 Games in Berlin, Mangiarotti won his first Olympic gold in the team épée aged just 17. After the Second World War, he resumed his fencing career, and soon developed the tactics that would become his trademark: launching rapid attacks to score points early in the contest, before switching to a defensive strategy to protect his advantage. At London 1948, he won two silver medals, one in the individual foil and one in the team épée, to go with a bronze in the individual épée. Four years later in Helsinki he claimed his first individual gold, in the épée, and then repeated the feat in the team competition. Mangiarotti helped Italy to claim the team foil gold in Melbourne in 1956, and then another épée team gold on home soil at Rome 1960. At both of the latter editions of the Games, he was selected to carry the flag for the Italian delegation at the Opening Ceremony. Away from the Olympic arena, he won 14 world championship titles in the foil and épée between 1937 and 1958, securing second or third position on the podium on another 12 occasions.
A lifetime in the service of fencing
After retiring from competition 1961, Mangiarotti took up a senior role with the Italian Fencing Federation. He later held the role of General Secretary of the International Fencing Federation (FIE) and served as Chairman of the FIE’s Disciplinary Commission. A regular delegate at the Olympic Games, he was asked at Beijing 2008, by which point he was 89, how long he planned to continue in the role: “As long as I’m alive,” came the reply. Sadly, Beijing was to be his final Games, as he died on 25 May 2012, just months before the next edition in London.