Wheelchair Fencing - A Sport for disabled athletes
Wheelchair Fencing is an edition of the sport, fencing, for disabled (paralysed) athletes. This sport is governed by the International Wheelchair Fencing (IWF) Committee. The federation is a part of the International Paralympics Committee (IPC).
Wheelchair fencing was first introduced by Sir Ludwig Guttmann in the Stroke International Games, in 1953. Later, it became one of the initial sports to be the part of the Summer Paralympic Games, since the games’ debut in Rome, 1960. Generally, these games
are conducted in both summer and winter, followed by the respective year’s Olympic event.
Disabled athletes who qualify for the Paralympic event are those with mobility disability, amputations, cerebral palsy and blindness. Disability in the form of dwarfism, congenital deformities and multiple sclerosis, do not qualify to participate in international
events. Unlike Olympics, this multi-sport event lacks massive funds but still makes an effort to encourage athletes who are not able-bodied, to be a part of the game.
At the 1988 Paralympic Games held in Seoul, athletes with disabilities like polio, cerebral palsy, amputation and paraplegia were allowed to be a part of wheelchair fencing. This became possible due to the introduction of a new integrated classification,
in the sport.
Wheelchair fencing has been classified into three groups, A, B and C. Each class has been defined according to an athlete’s disability level. Competitors, who fall in Class C, do not qualify to play the Paralympics.
In this version of fencing, wheelchairs are fixed with a metal frame, so that it stays static during the fight. The distance is formerly determined by the fencer with shorter arms.
According to the 2012 London Paralympic Games website, first round’s bouts shall comprise of a best of 9 hits to win. The elimination rounds shall be based on best of 15 hits, to win the bout.
All the three disciplines of fencing are part of the event. Foil and Epee competitions are for both Men and Women, whereas, Sabre is played just among men.
Target areas for Sabre and Foil are same as the able-bodied athletes’ fence. For Epee, the scoring area is anywhere above the waist and the lower body is covered with a lame’ apron, to avoid points hit there.
In all three weapon events, fencers are attached to the cord for detection of points scored through the signal box. Swords of the combat sport are also electrical, to record each hit scored over the respective target area.
Key difference between fencing and wheelchair fencing is that disabled athletes are free to move only the upward part of their body. One hand of the fencer holds the sword, whereas, the other is used to hold the wheelchair for performing a lunge and then
retrieving back to position. The chair needs to be fixed at an angle of 110 degree, to the central bar. Athletes require to be seated with their feet on the footrest, to qualify a lunge.
Each bout in the preliminary rounds of individual events lasts for four minutes. Then, three-three minute bouts with a one minute break are played in the elimination rounds. To win, fencers have to either score 15 hits or have a higher number of hits within
the game time.
Three members comprise of a squad, in the team events. The line-up who scores 45 hits first, wins the competition.
The upcoming 2012 London Paralympics is intended to be hosted in the Excel venue from September 4 to 8. A total of twelve gold medals shall be given to victorious Men and Women individuals and teams, in all disciplines of wheelchair fencing. 100 athletes
will qualify for wheelchair fencing events and feature in the Paralympic Games.