It was a bonanza Olympic year in 1932 for American fencers, at least by U.S. standards.

Joseph Levis won a silver in foil, James Calman a bronze in epee and the epee team was third.

It took 28 more years before Albert Axelrod picked up this country's fourth - and last - Olympic medal, a bronze in the foil in 1960. Prospects for 1980 are not exactly encouraging, either.

"We won't win any medals, and I'm not trying to be pessimistic," said Jack Keane, captain of the 1976 Olympic team, the 1979 Pan American Games team and competitive captain for the Amateur Fencers League of America.

"But we do have a chance to become world-ranked (finishing in the top seven) and our sabre team is already world-ranked," Keane said. "Our technical level and kind of athletes have improved, but I'm afraid so have the Russians, Romanians, Hungarians and Poles.

"Our goal is to do what the soccer people are doing since soccer isn't an American sport, either. First we want to qaulify, then get higher, and then win medals.

Until recently, amateur fencing in this country was conducted "on a free-lance, laissez-faire, school-oriented, club-oriented basis that (AFLA) has been trying to change" to a more formal, structured system, Keane said.

With the help of funds from the U.S. Olympic Committee, AFLA has begun a national training system, with emphasis on standardizing teaching methods, training schedules and youth development.

Both Keane and Irwin Bernstein, AFLA executive director, believe the United States is capable of making the finals in team sabre (the top four slots) and individual sabre (top six). Peter Westbrook of New York City already is a world-class competitor.

Olympic fencing encompasses team and individual competition in the foil, sabre and epee for men. Women may compete in individual and team events for the foil only.