Catherine Bouwkamp
An American wheelchair fencer, Joey Brinson, competing at the Paralympic Games Rio 2016

Wheelchair fencing was first introduced by Sir Ludwig Guttmann, the founder of the Paralympic Movement, in 1953. In 1960, wheelchair fencing debuted as a part of the Paralympic program at the first-ever Paralympic Games in Rome, Italy. It is on the program for the Paralympic Games Rio 2016, with athletes in three impairment groups eligible for competition.

Wheelchair fencing by impairment group

Amputee/
Dwarfism*/
Other

 Blind/
Visually
Impaired

 Spinal Cord Injury/
Paralyzed/
Wheelchair User

 Traumatic
Brain
Injury/
Cerebral Palsy/Stroke

Intellectual Impairment 

 X

 X

 X


* Dwarfs are not eligible for wheelchair fencing

Athletes compete in wheelchairs that are fixed to the floor, limiting the movement of the chair. As athletes rely on ducking, half-turns and leaning to dodge their competitors' touches, fencers can never raise up from the seat. The first fencer to score five touches is declared the winner. Athletes play the best of three rounds.

Athletes compete in single and team formats. Weapon categories for men include foil, epee and sabre, and women compete in foil and epee.  Athletes are divided into A, B and C classifications, depending on their strength and mobility. Class A players have the greatest range of strength and mobility, while Class C players have the least.

At the Paralympic Games London 2012, wheelchair fencing took place Sept. 4-8 at the ExCel London convention center. A total of six athletes (five men, one woman) represented Team USA at the 2012 Games but did not medal. Team USA has only one Paralympic medal in the sport, a bronze from the Paralympic Games Athens 2004.

The U.S. Paralympic Wheelchair Fencing Team and the day-to-day operations of the high performance program are overseen by U.S. Fencing, the National Governing Body for Paralympic wheelchair fencing in the United States.

To learn more about Paralympic wheelchair fencing, visit U.S. Fencing’s websiteTo find a local program in your community, visit the Paralympic Resource Network.