Originally devised at Stoke Mandeville Hospital, U.K., competitive wheelchair fencing was first introduced in 1953 and has been a Paralympic sport since Rome in 1960. Popular in Europe since its inception, the sport is now practised in 25 countries worldwide.
Unlike able-bodied fencing, wheelchair fencing is static: the fencers are clamped to the piste using a metal frame. Beyond this, the sport is largely similar to its able-bodied counterpart. A list of clubs for Wheelchair fencing can be found here.
In order to compete in fencing at the Paralympic Games athletes must compete while sitting in a wheelchair. Athletes who have had a spinal cord injury (quadriplegic and paraplegic), athletes with lower leg amputations, athletes with cerebral palsy and athletes with other physical disabilities which require the use of a wheelchair are all eligible to compete in wheelchair fencing.
There are three classes:
- Class A incorporates those athletes with good balance and recovery and full trunk movement
- Class B those with poor balance and recovery but full use of one or both upper limbs
- Class C athletes with severe physical impairment in all four limbs
The International Wheelchair Fencing Committee (IWFC) uses the rules of the Federation Internationale D’escrime (FIE) for wheelchair fencing. IWFC additions to the FIE rule book include regulations regarding the use and position of the wheelchair and the fencer’s clothing and equipment. Generally speaking, the legs, trunk below the waist and wheelchair are not valid target areas in wheelchair fencing.