Like many wheelchair sports, wheelchair fencing is growing in popularity around the world. Unlike many wheelchair sports, wheelchair fencing is almost exactly the same as the original version of the sport, the only two differences being 1) The fencers sit in wheelchairs of course, and 2) Wheelchair fencing is a lot faster paced.
“Wheelchair fencing is about three times faster than standard fencing,” said fencing coach Samuel Aldridge. “Because you don’t have all the preliminary moving back and forth before the sword work can happen.”
One wheelchair fencer is 27 year old Chris Barrilleaux who lives with cerebral palsy. For him, the sport has provided a fun social opportunity, a physical and mental challenge, and a chance to use his quick thinking in regular weekly competitions.
Though Barrilleaux does not plan to pursue fencing professionally, many have such as Leo Curtis who is one tournament away from qualifying for the 2016 Paralympics. Curtis began wheelchair fencing after he was discharged from the Army when an IED explosion left him with major injuries to his brain, spine and ankles. At first, fencing was simply a way to get out of the house. Now, he’s one of the world’s top competitors.
“It’s the same sport, but it’s a different game,” said Curtis, comparing wheelchair fencing to traditional fencing. “In a wheelchair, you have to be more technically precise with your blade work.”