Paris 2024: Introduction to wheelchair fencing

As many as 96 wheelchair fencing athletes will compete in 16 medal events at the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games 08 Jul 2024
Wheelchair fencer Bebe Vio competing at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games
The Paris 2024 Paralympic Games will take place between 28 August and 8 September 2024.
Ⓒ Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

Welcome to Week 20 of the Paris 2024 Sport Week. This week, all you need to know about wheelchair fencing, a fierce and fast-moving combat sport that has been staged at the Paralympics since the inaugural Games.

At the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games, as many as 96 wheelchair fencing athletes will compete in 16 medal events.


Brief history of wheelchair fencing

Wheelchair fencing was one of the eight sports included at the inaugural Paralympic Games in 1960 and has been featured at every summer Games since.

Wheelchair fencing was pioneered by Sir Ludwig Guttmann, the father of the Paralympic Movement. A keen fencer himself, Guttmann saw the sport’s potential early on for helping rehabilitate people with spinal injuries.

The Rome 1960 Paralympic Games featured three medal events. Sixty-one years later, 96 athletes competed in 16 medal events at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics.

France has won a total of 144 Paralympic medals (62 gold, 43 silver, 39 bronze) in wheelchair fencing, 81 more medals than China who is placed second in the medals table with 63.

France’s Christian Lachaud and Andre Hennaert have both won nine gold medals in the sport.


What to watch in wheelchair fencing

At the Paralympics, there are three disciplines based on the type of weapon used: foil, epee and sabre. The aim is to hit the opponent with the weapon in the permitted target areas: the torso in foil discipline and anything above the waist in epee and sabre.

In competitions, wheelchairs are positioned on a fixing system which is placed on the track. The athletes cannot rise from their seats during the bout and the athlete with the shorter arm reach decides the distance between fencers.

A total of 96 athletes competed in wheelchair fencing at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics. @Joe Toth/OIS

Wheelchair fencers have an impairment in their lower limbs and compete in either category A or B.

Category A fencers have good sitting balance and impairments which affect their lower limbs. Category B fencers have an impairment that impacts their sitting balance or fencing arm.

Bouts are so fast that an electronic scoring system registers when a hit has successfully landed. Individual matches are three, three-minute bouts, with the first to score 15 hits or the highest score wins.

In team matches, the first team to score 45 hits or has the highest score when time runs out wins. If scores are equal, fencers enter an extra minute of sudden death.


Memorable Paralympic moments 

Hungary’s Pal Szekeres entered into history books with his Paralympic title at Barcelona 1992.  

Pal Szekeres has collected six Paralympic medals between @NPC Hungary

He won individual foil and became the first person to win a Paralympic and Olympic medal in the sport. He had won bronze at the Seoul 1988 Olympic Games. He collected three gold and three bronze medals across six Games.

Yu Chui Yee of Hong Kong, China, bagged four gold medals in her Paralympic debut at the Athens 2004 Games. She has now won 11 medals (seven gold, three silver, one bronze), becoming the most successful female wheelchair fencer.

Yu Chui Yee has earned 11 Paralympic medals, becoming the most successful female wheelchair fencer. @Michael Steele/Getty Images

At the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics, China collected 20 medals, including 11 golds, at the Makuhari Messe Hall in Japan. Jing Bian and Shumei Tan topped the podium in the inaugural women’s sabre events, with Jing winning category A and Tan winning category B.

Italy’s Bebe Vio won her second straight gold medal in Tokyo. The Paralympic superstar battled through the field to retain her women’s foil category B title by beating China’s Jingjing Zhou in the final.

Vio won the women's foil individual category B event at Tokyo 2020. @Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

Great Britain became the most improved team since Rio 2016. They converted their one medal from Rio into two team and three individual medals in Tokyo.

Piers Gilliver overcame defending champion Sun Gang on his way to the men’s epee category A final, breaking the Chinese dominance, before going on to claim the gold.


Paris 2024 sports programme

There will be 16 medal events at Paris 2024:

Men’s events 


Men's Epee Individual Category A 

Men's Epee Individual Category B

Men's Epee Team



Men's Foil Individual Category A 

Men's Foil Individual Category B 

Men's Foil Team



Men's Sabre Individual Category A

Men's Sabre Individual Category B

Women’s events


Women's Epee Individual Category A 

Women's Epee Individual Category B

Women's Epee Team



Women's Foil Individual Category A

Women's Foil Individual Category B

Women's Foil Team



Women's Sabre Individual Category A

Women's Sabre Individual Category B


Paris 2024 venue

Wheelchair fencing competitions will take place at the Grand Palais.

Para taekwondo competition will also take place at the Grand Palais. @Mirco Magliocca/Paris 2024

The venue, located in the heart of Paris, has a long history of hosting art and sport events. Originally built for the Paris Universal Exhibition in 1900, the Palais is known for its magnificent nave and glass roof.


Discover more about wheelchair fencing and the 22 sports in the Paris 2024 Paralympic sports programme 

Book your tickets for the Paralympic Games by visiting the Paris 2024 ticketing website