Explaining the Paralympics: Wheelchair Fencing
Newsfrom JapanSports Tokyo 2020
The sport is open to athletes with lower body impairments, such as spinal cord injury or lower limb amputation. The playing area is called a piste. Wheelchairs are fixed to a frame fastened to the floor, and athletes can move their upper bodies. Rules are similar to Olympic fencing. Athletes are divided into two categories, those with good sitting balance in category A and those whose musculature does not permit them to balance in a sitting position in category B. At Tokyo, men and women will compete in 3 disciplines: foil, where the target area is just the opponent’s trunk; épée, where the whole upper is a target; and sabre, where fencers score hits on a target area above the hips. Competition between teams of 3 are held for épée and foil.
For each match, the wheelchairs are fixed at a 110-degree angle to the center line. The distance between the two fencers is chosen by the shorter-armed athlete, who decides whose reach will be used to determine the distance. Other specific rules apply. For example, during a bout, athletes may not lift their bodies off the seat of the wheelchair.
In individual stages, the bouts last up to 3 minutes, and the first fencer with 5 hits wins. In the knockout, the winning fencer is the first who makes 15 hits in a set of three 3-minute bouts. In relay events, teams consist of three players, with bouts of 5 hits in a maximum time of 3 minutes. Over the nine bouts, the winning team is the first to reach 45 hits or the team with the most hits when time is up. For individual and team competitions, ties are resolved by sudden death with 1-minute extensions.
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