Helene Mayer

Helene Mayer was born in Offenbach, Germany, in 1910. At 13, she began an unbroken string of German championships that continued until she left for the 1932 Olympics and college in the US. At 17 she won gold at the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics and became a celebrity, appearing in newspapers, magazines and on collectible sports cards.

After competing at the Los Angeles Olympics in 1932, she remained in Southern California to pursue a college degree and began a long career of dominating women’s foil in the US on both the regional and national level. After college, she took a job at Mills College in Oakland, teaching languages and fencing. 


In 1936 she was the only Jewish athlete to compete for Germany at the Olympic Games where she finished with the Silver Medal. Without her participation, it’s likely the US would have boycotted the Games. In addition to her Olympic triumphs, she was World Champion three times and US National Champion nine times. She represented three clubs during her time in the US: the Los Angeles Athletic Club, the Funke Fencing Academy and the Halberstadt Fencers Club. Hans Halberstadt and Helene had trained under the same fencing master in their home club in Offenbach and likely met before Helene was in her teens. They remained steadfast friends until her untimely death at the age of 52.


Hall of Famer: Erich Funke d’Egnuff

Hall of Famer: Erich Funke d’Egnuff

Regular readers will be familiar with the many tales told herein of Charles Selberg, himself a graduate of SF State (BA ’57, MA ’60). Selberg had his fencing beginnings at SF State under the tutelage of Erich Funke.

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Helene Mayer, Part 1

Helene Mayer, Part 1

Helene Mayer was a German fencer who first distinguished herself as German national champion at the age of 13.  By 19, she had won Olympic gold (1928) and the first of three world championships.  After the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics, she remained in the US, studied at...

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