Wheelchair Fencing at the Paralympic Games

Wheelchair Fencing is another sport that was born post-World War 2. Sir Ludwig Guttmann of Stoke Mandeville Hospital was the first to introduce it, with the goal of encouraging physical strength and self-respect amongst injured soldiers. It was during 1960 at the first Paralympic Games in Rome, where wheelchair fencing made its debut, alongside only 7 other sports.

Both male and female athletes, with spine injuries, lower limb amputations or cerebral palsy are eligible to play. Athletes who need the use of a wheelchair can also compete. There are classifications for athletes, which refer to aspects like sitting balance and amputations.

Initially, the events follow a group stages format, and the top athletes move on to the knockout stages. In the actual head to head ties, each fencers’ wheelchair is attached into medal frames on the floor, allowing only upper body movement. Athletes cannot move back or forth, but have total upper body control.

Fencers must strike their opponent in the correct area, using their sword that is attached to electronic equipment. There are a total of three events in the sport, they all differ according to the sword used, the foil, the epee and the sabre.

In the group stages, contests last up to 4 minutes, the first fencer to register 5 hits automatically wins. In the knockout stages there are 3, 3 minute rounds. The aim is to register a total of 15 hits.

China are a force to be reckoned with in this sport. They have asserted their dominance in both world championships and the Paralympic Games themselves.

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