Vladimir Smirnov (fencer)

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Vladimir Viktorovich Smirnov
Statue on the grave
Personal information
Born (1954-05-20)20 May 1954
Rubizhne, Ukrainian SSR
Died 28 July 1982(1982-07-28) (aged 28)
Rome, Italy
Sport Fencing

Vladimir Viktorovich Smirnov (Russian: Влади́мир Ви́кторович Смирно́в, Ukrainian: Володимир Вікторович Смирнов; 20 May 1954 – 28 July 1982) was a Soviet foil fencer.


Smirnov won the gold medal in individual men's foil at the 1980 Summer Olympics.[1][2] He won the World Championships the following year.

During the 1982 World Championships in Rome, Smirnov was fencing Matthias Behr of West Germany on 19 July. Behr's blade broke during the action, and the broken blade went through the mesh of Smirnov's mask, through his eye orbit, and into his brain. Smirnov died nine days later.[3]

Smirnov's accident was the driving force behind the significant improvement of safety gear in fencing. Maraging steel blades (instead of the carbon steel ones of the day), kevlar (or other ballistic nylon) in the uniforms, and masks two to three times stronger than the one he wore, and other safety rules, all came about because of his death.


  1. ^ "Olympics Statistics: Vladimir Viktorovich Smirnov". databaseolympics.com. Archived from the original on 2011-08-16. Retrieved 2011-04-25. 
  2. ^ "Vladimir Viktorovich Smirnov Olympic Results". sports-reference.com. Retrieved 2011-04-25. 
  3. ^ "Soviet Fencer Dies of Injuries". The New York Times. July 29, 1982. Retrieved May 19, 2011.