Wheelchair Fencing

Wheelchair Fencing

images of Wheelchair Fencing

Paralympic Sports

Wheelchair Fencing

Wheelchair fencing features three different weapons and is played by athletes with lower-body impairment. The sport has featured in every Paralympic Games since Rome 1960.


Wheelchair fencing is a fast-moving battle of tactics and technique. Athletes compete in wheelchairs that are fixed into a frame fastened to the floor. This gives them freedom of movement in their upper bodies, while keeping them secure in their chairs.

Fencing takes place on a piste measuring 4m x 1.5m. Preparations for each match begin with the fixing of the wheelchairs at a 110-degree angle relative to the centre line on the piste. The distance between the two fencers is determined by the athlete with the shorter arm reach, who decides if the distance between competitors will be set at the length of their opponent's reach or their own.

Wheelchair fencers wear protective gear including masks, jackets, breeches and gloves. They also use the same electronic scoring system as in Olympic Fencing.

The rules are based on those of the International Fencing Federation (FIE) with amendments appropriate to the needs of the wheelchair fencers. Athletes are divided into two categories (A and B) depending on their functional ability. They compete in three disciplines:

  • Épée: the heaviest weapon and a true dueling sword, the whole body above the waist is a target.
  • Foil: a light weapon derived from the court sword, the target area in foil bouts is the opponent's trunk.
  • Sabre: in sabre, which is derived from the cavalry sword, fencers usually score hits with the edge of the weapon on a target area anywhere above the waist.

The Tokyo 2020 programme will include men's and women's individual events in all three disciplines, as well as team events for épée and foil.

Eligibility to participate in the Paralympic Games is based on rankings, with details subject to revision at each Games. Eligibility to compete at Tokyo 2020 will be determined at the April 2020 meeting of the International Wheelchair and Amputee Sports Federation.

Athletes can boost their ranking by competing in World Cup events, several of which are held every year, and in other regional and international tournaments.

International Federation: International Wheelchair and Amputee Sports Federation(Open in a new window)

Event Programme


  • Category A (Men/Women)
  • Category B (Men/Women)
  • Team (Men/Women)


  • Category A (Men/Women)
  • Category B (Men/Women)
  • Team (Men/Women)


  • Category A (Men/Women)
  • Category B (Men/Women)


Close-quarters competition in customised wheelchairs

Wheelchair Fencers

Although sword fighting dates back thousands of years, fencing as we now understand it came of age as a sport in the 19th century. Wheelchair fencing developed after World War II at Stoke Mandeville Hospital in England, the birthplace of the Paralympic Games.

The sport was used to aid the recovery of spinal cord injury patients who found moving in their wheelchair instilled confidence and increased their core stability.

Because wheelchair fencers cannot use their feet to move back and forth, they are always at close quarters with their opponent. Precise technique is a must, as are intense concentration and resilience.

During a bout, athletes are not allowed to move their hindquarters off the seat of the wheelchair or their legs out of the wheelchair's footrest. Consequently, they use chairs that have been highly customized to their physique and impairment.

The belt used to secure each athlete to their wheelchair and an armrest for the arm not holding the sword are essential to enable the fencers to stay stable and balanced.

In individual pool stages, the first fencer to make five hits in three minutes wins. The knockout stages consist of three three-minute bouts, with the first fencer to make 15 hits winning. In competition between teams of three, a match consists of three bouts, with the first fencer to make five hits in three minutes winning each bout. In both individual and team competitions, ties are resolved by a sudden-death bout lasting one minute.


En garde for Paralympic glory

Wheelchair Fencers

Wheelchair fencing has been historically popular in Europe, with athletes from France and Italy particularly dominant at the Paralympic Games. Hong Kong and China have also become strong contenders, notably at Rio 2016 where Chinese athletes won six out of ten gold medals in individual events and three of the four team events.

A fencer who attracted particular attention at Rio 2016 was Italian Beatrice Vio. A passionate fencer as a young child, she lost both her legs from the knee, and both her arms from the forearms, due to serious illness at the age of 11. Following a period of rehabilitation and a switch to wheelchair fencing, she began to compete at an elite level and won her first World Cup title at the age of 16. At Rio 2016, Vio won the category B individual foil gold medal and a bronze in the team event.



In épée events, hits may only be made above the waist. What piece of equipment do wheelchair fencers use to ensure only legitimate hits are recorded by the electronic scoring equipment?


A:Athletes cover the lower half of their body with a metal apron to make sure hits to off-target areas are not registered.

As of 11 Nov. 2019

Competition Venues

  • Makuhari Messe Hall B

Olympic Sports

Paralympic Sports