European wheelchair fencing titles up for grabs in Paralympic city, Paris

04/03/2024

More than 100 of Europe’s best wheelchair fencers from 15 countries are set to compete for European titles in Paris, France, from 5-10 March on their road to the next Paralympic Games.

The 2024 European Championships are one of the last competitions to take place before the qualification window for Paris 2024 closes at the end of May. Other regional Championships in Asia and the Americas – as well as one more World Cup – will see athletes take their last chance to grab points.

The competition will be shown live at wheelchair fencing’s website, alongside live results. Pictures and video clips will be available by contacting media@worldabilitysport.org.

French hopes high

If the current world rankings are anything to go by, host France have medal chances across both weapons and individual and team events.

Hopes rest on both new and established fencers. Maxime Valet is one of the most experienced members of the French team, having made his international debut in 2011. Since then he was won more than 50 World Cup medals and secured double bronze at the Rio 2016 Paralympics.

Valet is a talented foil and sabreist and was part of the squad that won bronze in the men’s sabre at the most recent World Cup in Cardiff, Great Britain. Individually, he is ranked second in both foil and sabre and collected silver and bronze, respectively, at the last editions of the European Championships in 2022.

Following in Valet’s footsteps and in the wake of being awarded the 2024 Paris Paralympics, several other French fencers have been making their mark in recent years.

22-year-old Luca Platania-Parisi is one to watch in the men’s epee category A. He has reached a series of World Cup podiums since 2022 and just missed out on a medal at the last Euros, finishing a respectable fifth on his debut. He also contributed to France’s bronze in the men’s team epee.

Yohan Peter returns as the current European silver medallist from the men’s epee category B and once again underscores his country’s ability to excel as a collective. He was part of the French team that claimed bronze in the team epee at last year’s World Championships.

Brianna Vide and Clemence Delavoipiere are two more fencers who are helping to secure the future of wheelchair fencing in France.

Vide, 25, grabbed bronze in 2022 in the women’s epee category A and has also landed on the World Cup podium in sabre. Delavoipiere, 24, won the under 23 world title in epee in 2022.

“I’m really excited and happy for the upcoming European Championships!,” Vide said. “It will be at home, with family and friends, so I’m really excited to fence for them. The main goal is to do my best, to fence at the highest level I can, and to share this experience with the public.”

As a team, France are ranked as the world No.3 in the men’s team epee and foil and second in the sabre. They are Paralympic bronze medallists in the foil.

Delavoipiere (far left) and Vide (far right) Credit: Andrea Trifileti/Bizzi Team

Paralympic medallists on the piste

With Paris 2024 just around the corner, the European Championships will be a good indicator of who is in form.

Europe are historically one of the strongest regions in the sport and a number of medallists from Tokyo 2020 will be seen at the Halle Carpentier.

Italy’s Bebe Vio-Grandis has been unbeatable in the women’s foil category B since her return in 2023. The 26-year-old won her fourth consecutive world title last year to follow-on from her second Paralympic title.

Great Britain’s Piers Gilliver is the reigning Paralympic champion in the men’s epee category A. His winning ways have not stopped in the three years since the last Paralympics.

Hungary’s Amarilla Veres stormed to gold in Tokyo in the women’s epee category A and is the defending European champion.

Other notable names include Great Britain’s Dimitri Coutya, the bronze medallist from Tokyo 2020 in the epee and foil category B and current world No.1 in both weapons.

Hungary’s Richard Osvath, Ukraine’s Artem Manko, Nataliia Morkvych and Yevheniia Breus, Poland’s Adrian Castro, Greece’s Panagiotis Triantafyllou and Georgia’s Nina Tibilashvili are also Paralympic medallists who can all be seen in Paris from Tuesday.

Tibilashvili said: “I am really excited because I have more responsibilities this year, although you are training intensively and we expect a successful Paris Paralympics for me and my team. I have an extraordinary coach and team and I believe that we will win together.”

Georgia's Nino Tibilashvili celebrates a shot on gold in the women's sabre category A
Credit: Haruo Wanibe

In the team events, Italy and Hungary highlight the women’s foil whilst Ukraine are looking to excel in the women’s epee once again.

France’s exploits in the Paralympic men’s foil are well known and Great Britain are Paralympic medallists in both the men’s epee and foil.

Rigo’s latest triumph?

Whilst not a Paralympic classification, the category C events still offer a fantastic competition.

Italy’s Leonardo Rigo burst onto his first international podium in 2021, going onto win the European title in foil in 2022. He also sealed silver in the epee. Rigo then became the foil world champion in 2023.

“I am very happy to compete in these European Championships and I can’t wait to be on piste in Paris. The time has finally come. The latest successes at the European Championships in Warsaw and at the World Championships in Terni have given me great enthusiasm and motivation and I hope to repeat myself in the splendid setting of this 2024 edition. It will be a special event for me, for Italian team and for all the Paralympic fencing family.”

Credit: Augusto Bizzi

But it will be a tough field in Paris with a series of former and current world and European champions lining up.

These include Ukraine’s Serhii Shavkun, the defending epee world title holder and 2018 Euros foil winner.

Latvia’s Dmitrijs Vailainis is another serial medallist at this level, alongside Ukraine’s Serhii Sheptitskyi who, despite being a relative newcomer, has already made his way into the European and Worlds top three.

The Paris 2024 Wheelchair Fencing European Championships are part of a trio of region-wide qualifiers for the Paralympic Games – a process which began in 2022.

The 2024 Asian Championships will take place in Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand, from 24-28 April followed by the Americas Championships in San Jose, Costa Rica, from 8-12 May.

Rounding off the qualification pathway is a World Cup in Sao Paulo, Brazil, from 23-26 May.

After the window closes at the end of May, Warsaw, Poland, will host the final competition ahead of Paris 2024 from 4-7 July before fencers return to their countries to put the final touches to their Paralympic preparations.