Wheelchair fencing first began in England during the early 1950s. The sport was started to help wounded soldiers more quickly recover their strength and stamina, as well as relieve stress from injuries on the battlefield.
The equipment and rules for wheelchair fencing closely mirror those used for able-bodied fencing. Yet, rather than competing on a strip, each competitor’s wheelchair is fastened on either side to a metal frame to prevent tipping during the match.
Wheelchairs are positioned on the metal frame according to the weapon used and to the advantage of the fencer with the shorter fencing arm. Fencers must wear thick clothes or a special apron in order to protect their legs. A glove may also be worn, and binding must cover the sleeve opening.
Fencers who cannot firmly grip their sword are allowed to attach their sword to their hand using a bandage or another type of wrapping.
If you are a novice fencer, you can probably use your everyday wheelchair to fence. During matches, rigid wheelchair frames are preferred over folding wheelchair frames. There should be no more than three centimeters on each side of your body when you are seated and centered in your wheelchair.
If you’d like to enter a competition, you must use a wheelchair that meets tournament specifications so inquire ahead of time to ensure your chair meets standards.
Fencing in wheelchairs takes place in a much more compact space than able-bodied fencing since the wheelchairs remain static. The space is about one meter wide and three to four meters long.
The distance between the two fencers is decided based on the arm length of the competitor with the shortest arms. Fencers are not allowed to use their legs or rise from their wheelchairs.
Types of Competitions
Fencing for wheelchair users is an official sport in the Paralympic Games. All interested, physically challenged athletes are eligible to participate in wheelchair fencing competitions.
Fencing events include Foil, Epee, and Sabre. Both men and women are eligible to compete in Foil and Epee, while only men are eligible to compete in the Sabre.
The object of the game is to score 15 points against your opponent through direct elimination. Athletes get a point each time they strike their opponents in the target area. In Foil and Sabre competitions, the targets are the same as in able-bodied fencing.
In Epee competitions, the target area is the waist up. A long metallic cape called a "lame" is worn across the lap to cancel out any touches that land there.
The official governing body of fencing for wheelchair users is the International Wheelchair and Amputee Sports Federation. The official rules of the sport can be found here at www.wheelchairfencer.org.
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