By David Owen

FIE logoAugust 8 - The International Fencing Federation (FIE) has announced the launch of a career programme intended to prepare fencers for life once their days on the piste are over.

The FIE Athletes Career Programme 2014 was unveiled by Alisher Usmanov, the FIE President, during the 2013 World Fencing Championships that are currently taking place in Budapest.

Usmanov, a Russian billionaire, who is also a major shareholder in Premier League Arsenal, said the initiative was important for the FIE "because it seeks to solve an issue that affects hundreds of athletes, namely, finding their calling after retirement from active sport".

"I am certain that all athletes and fencers in particular, have unique qualities and experience which will provide a valuable contribution to society," Usmanov added.

The FIE, which is celebrating its centenary year, said the programme's focus was on "education, life skills and employment".

It would also offer training in coaching, communication and administration to athletes who sought to pursue a career within the field of fencing.

The governing body said the concept had been developed "in close cooperation" with the International Olympic Committee (IOC), and was designed to "use and create synergies with the IOC Athletes Career Programme".

Usmanov was re-elected FIE President in Moscow in December, after it was revealed that the sport's budget had increased five-fold under his leadership over the previous four years.

Not all fencers, it should be noted, find it difficult to locate their calling after retirement: Thomas Bach, who won an Olympic gold medal for Germany in team foil at the 1976 Montreal Games, is now a leading contender to succeed Jacques Rogge as IOC President; Claudia Bokel, a former world champion in women's épée, now chairs the IOC Athletes' Commission.

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