Paralympic Sports A-Z: Wheelchair fencing

Find out all you need to know about the Paralympic sport of wheelchair fencing, including the history, rules, classification and equipment.

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Wheelchair fencing was developed by Sir Ludwig Guttmann, the founder of the Paralympic Games. Having featured at the International Stoke Mandeville Games in Great Britain in 1952, the sport was then on the programme at the very first Paralympics in 1960.

Today wheelchair fencing is governed by the International Wheelchair and Amputee Sports Federation (IWAS)

Starting positions

In wheelchair fencing, the competitors’ wheelchairs are firmly fixed to a metal frame in the competition area, which is known as the “piste.”

Given the fast and furious nature of the sport, competitors are required to wear a protective mask, gloves and jacket at all times. In the epee event, a metal-lined apron is used to protect the fencers’ legs and wheelchairs.

The fencers start with blades raised in the “en garde” position. This position is held until the referee calls “play” and the bout begins.

Events and weapons

At the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, 14 wheelchair fencing medals will be available across individual and team events.

Events are divided across three weapons – epee, foil and sabre.

The epee is the heaviest weapon at 770g and is more rigid than the other swords. Points are scored by touching the tip of the blade on any part of the opponent’s body above the waist.

The foil is lighter and highly flexible. In the foil event, points are awarded for landing the tip of the blade on the opponent’s torso, but not the limbs or head.

The sabre has a short, flexible blade and differs from the other events in that points are scored by hitting the opponent with the cutting edge, the flat or the back of the blade.

Duration and scoring

An electronic scoring system registers when a hit has been successfully landed and the scoreboard updates accordingly.

In the early pool rounds, the winner is the first fencer to reach five points or the fencer with the highest score after a single bout of three minutes.

In the direct elimination rounds, the victor is the first to 15 points or whoever has the most points after three bouts of three minutes.

In team matches, teams are made up of three fencers. Each fencer faces each opponent in the other team in a single bout of three minutes. The winning team is the team with the most points when the time is up, or the first to reach a cumulative score of 45 points.


At the Paralympic Games, wheelchair fencers compete in two classifications:

• Class A athletes have good trunk control, allowing them to bend forward and sideways explosively when attacking their opponent or dodging an attack.

• Class B have an impairment that impacts their legs as well as their trunk or their fencing arm.

A dedicated article on wheelchair fencing classification will be published later on the IPC website in this Sport Week feature series.