Over 100 athletes in wheelchairs, representing 26 countries from around the globe, are lunging and parrying in Leesburg as they compete in the International Wheelchair and Amputee Sports Federation’s Wheelchair Fencing World Cup.
The event at the National Conference Center that started on January 14 continues through Tuesday. It is the first IWAS World Cup event held on U.S. soil since 2003 in Atlanta.
Wheelchair fencing, also known as parafencing, adapts the sport of fencing to make competition accessible for athletes in wheelchairs. Fencers’ wheelchairs are fixed to a frame on the ground, which is adjusted to place them at the appropriate distance apart, and “must remain with at least one half of their bottom on the seat at all times,” according to IWAS.
Athletes can choose to compete in three different styles of fencing (foil, epee and sabre), which determine the type of sword used, the distance between competitors and the way fencers can score points. Fencers compete in three divisions, based on their level of physical ability.
Spectators are welcome. Competition starts each day at 9 a.m. The tournament can be seen on YouTube, with touch-by-touch commentary provided.
This competition is an important step toward the sport gaining U.S. attention and attracting more wheelchair athletes as they look forward to the to the 2028 Paralympics Games in Los Angeles, according to USA Fencing, the organization hosting the event.
“Visibility is vital in sports — especially adaptive sports like parafencing,” says USA Fencing CEO Phil Andrews. “With the 2028 Summer Paralympics in Los Angeles on the horizon, we have an exciting opportunity to grow parafencing in this country. But to do so, we must provide opportunities for people to see this fascinating, fast-paced sport for themselves.”
The World Cup also offers athletes a chance to earn points that will count toward qualification for the next Paralympic games in Tokyo in 2024.
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