In Beijing GB fielded just one athlete, but since then the sport has invested significantly in recruiting and developing new talent for the sport. In total seven wheelchair fencers were selected to compete in London.
GB Fencing worked closely with the British Paralympic Association to help some of their most newly recruited athletes prepare for London 2012, including participating in a ParalympicsGB programme called the Talent Transition Programme (TTP), designed to provide athletes with an intensive introduction to elite sport.
In changes from previous Paralympic Games, for London 2012 the Team event was reintroduced into the schedule (men’s Foil and women’s Epee Team events only). In preparation, Great Britain entered athletes into the women's Team event at the 2010 World Championships, which was the first time in over 20 years that GB had been represented in this event. For the Paralympic Games, a team consists of three fencers, at least one of which must be a Class B fencer. In London the women's team comprised Gemma Collis, Justine Moore and Gabi Down and the men's team comprised Simon Wilson, David Heaton and Craig McCann.
The Wheelchair Fencing squad that competed at London 2012 gained valuable experience and the sport will undoubtedly be able to build on the lessons learned there before the next summer Games in Rio in 2016.
- First year at a Paralympic Games:
- Rome 1960
- Brief history:
- Wheelchair Fencing was introduced to the Stoke Mandeville International Games by Dr Ludwig Guttmann in 1953
- Eligible impairment groups:
- Participation is open to athletes with spinal injuries, lower leg amputations and cerebral palsy. Athletes requiring the general use of a wheelchair are also eligible.
- London medal table:
- 1 - China (six gold, three silver, one bronze)
2 - Hong Kong (two gold, one silver, four bronze)
3 - Poland (two gold, zero silver, one bronze)
- Did you know:
- British fencers have not been in the medals at a Paralympic Games since Caz Walton’s gold in the Epee at Seoul in 1988. Walton is one of Britain’s most successful Paralympians with 10 gold medals.
- London 2012 venue:
- Rio 2016 Venue
- Deodoro Arena, Deodoro Zone
The competition takes place in the form of pool stages followed by direct elimination rounds. During a contest the fencers’ wheelchairs are fastened into medal frames on the floor, allowing freedom of the upper body only.
Although fencers cannot move back and forth, the fact there are no restrictions to upper body movement means duals are as exciting and fast as in non-disabled Fencing events.
Fencers record hits by striking their opponent cleanly in the valid area, with successful hits recorded by the electronic equipment.
There are three disciplines in Wheelchair Fencing, and they are based on the type of sword used – the Foil, the Epee and the Sabre.
In the Foil event, fencers are only permitted to strike the trunk area of the opponent, whereas in the Sabre and Epee, anywhere above the waist is a valid target area.
Bouts last a maximum of four minutes in the preliminary stages, with victory going to the first fencer to score five valid hits or the one with the most hits at the end of the four minutes. Bouts in the first round of competition are the best of nine hits. The top competitors are promoted to a direct elimination, where bouts are awarded to the first get to 15 hits.
In the knockout stages, bouts consist of three rounds of three minutes. The winner is the first to score 15 hits, or the highest scorer at the completion of the contest. In the event of a tie, an extra one-minute sudden death bout is held, with the first person to score a valid hit taking the contest.
Classification divisions are based on impairment.
Category A is for those fencers who have been classified as either Class 3 or Class 4 fencer. These athletes have a good sitting balance, either with or without the support of their lower limbs. Athletes with a low level spinal lesion, athletes with double above the knee amputation and comparable impairments can compete in this class.
Category B is for those fencers who have been classified as a Class 2 fencer. These athletes have a fair sitting balance and an unaffected fencing arm. They most often have paraplegia or incomplete tetraplegia with fencing arms that are minimally affected.
There is a third classification, Class C, for those fencers who have been classified as a Class 1A or 1B fencer. This classification features at international competition but is not included at the Paralympic Games.