However the absentees did not significantly detract from a tournament of high quality at Moscow’s Army Sports Club, where a female French fencer came to the fore.
Pascale Trinquet combined lightning speed and graceful light-footedness on the piste as she dominated the individual foil event.
Following in the footsteps of her sister Veronique who had claimed a team silver in Montreal four years earlier, Pascale showed a liking for the biggest stage the sport enjoys and scored a series of impressive victories.
The 1980 tournament was the last to use a round robin-style of format and an initial field of 33 finalists was whittled down to a final six, with Trinquet joined by team-mate Brigitte Latrille-Gaudin in the battle for the gold medal.
Exuding energy and beaming widely each time she removed her protective mask, Trinquet put on a dazzling display of swordsmanship to lose just one of her finals contests to win the title.
Magda Maros, from the fencing powerhouse Hungary, finished with the silver and Poland’s Barbara Wysoczanska took the bronze.
Latrille-Gaudin finished a disappointing fifth but the duo and three team mates thwarted the Soviet side to take the foil team gold three days later.
Trinquet subsequently married and earned a team bronze at the Los Angeles Games four years later.