Sao Paulo prepares to close wheelchair fencing’s Paralympic qualification

15/05/2024

Wheelchair fencers from the Americas and beyond are arriving in Sao Paulo, Brazil, for the final two qualifying competitions for the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games. The state-of-the-art Brazilian Paralympic Training Centre will first stage the 2024 Americas Championships from 16-10 May, featuring athletes from nine countries. With points weighted to be worth more at regional […]

Wheelchair fencers from the Americas and beyond are arriving in Sao Paulo, Brazil, for the final two qualifying competitions for the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games.

The state-of-the-art Brazilian Paralympic Training Centre will first stage the 2024 Americas Championships from 16-10 May, featuring athletes from nine countries.

With points weighted to be worth more at regional Championships, fencers will be taking every chance to improve their position in the Paralympic rankings ahead of the end of the qualification period on 31 May.

A two-day training camp will then provide the buffer for the arrival of fencers from around the world who will line-up for the 2024 Wheelchair Fencing World Cup from 23-26 May, bringing the total number of countries competing to nearly 30.

All matches from the 2024 Wheelchair Fencing Americas Championships will be shown live at wheelchair-fencing.org alongside results https://www.wheelchairfencing.live/en/

Olympian and Para fencing coach Michael D’Asaro will provide the commentary.

Flying the Brazilian flag

Hosts Brazil topped the medals table at the last Americas Championships in 2022, winning an incredible 11 golds including a sweep of all team events.

All of their defending champions will return, headlined once again by London 2012 men’s epee category B Paralympic champion and Tokyo 2020 silver medallist Jovane Guissone.

Two years ago Guissone followed up on his return to the Paralympic podium with a full house of golds from the epee, foil and sabre. Now on the path to his fourth Paralympics at Paris 2024, the Brazilian is still one of the top ranked fencers in the world in the epee and foil.

Another multiple medallist from 2022 who returns this time is Rayssa Veras. The 27-year-old will defend her regional title in the women’s foil and epee category A and aim to improve on her silver from the sabre. Last time out Canada’s Sylvie Morell dashed Veras’ hopes of a hat-trick.

Kevin Damasceno, 20, represents the best of the future of Brazilian wheelchair fencing. He heads out in the men’s sabre category A as the bronze medallist from the recent under 23s World Championships in Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand and the Americas silver medallist.

Monica Santos rounds off a stellar group of returning individual multiple medallists from the host country. In 2022 Santos topped the podium in the women’s sabre category B, also grabbing silver in the foil and bronze in epee.

A challenging build-up

Elsewhere in the Brazilian entries is the compelling story of Vanderson Chaves, the reigning bronze medallist from the men’s foil and sabre category B.

Chaves – who like many others is in Sao Paulo trying to grab the last qualification points for Paris 2024 – lost his home and all his fencing equipment in the recent floods in Porto Alegre which have killed 100 people. His club, the Gremio Nautico Uniao, which is home to a number of other Brazilian wheelchair fencers, has been turned into a shelter for 300 people displaced by the flooding. Chaves is relying on donated equipment from the USA and others in Brazil to compete.

Credit: CBE

“He will have new gloves. For a soccer player, that’s like having new boots,” Chaves’ coach Eduardo Nunes told the Associated press. “He could get blisters with that, the gloves won’t be softened. His outfit also needs to be softened, and he won’t have time to do that and get used to moving around with it. Those little details will affect him. But he can overcome all that,” Nunes said. “The toughest thing will still be his mental health. To focus on what he needs to focus.”

“I know that a lot of children, a lot of wheelchair fencers, get inspiration from me,” Chaves said. I motivate them. I can use this to encourage them, and I can use it to encourage myself to go after this, too.

“I like to wake up watching the medals, thinking that the following week there’s going to be more medals there,” he said. “That’s something that gives me extra motivation. And that’s because I know that I still have it all there under water.”

North America has entered the chat

Aiming to break through the Brazilian dominance are those who managed it at the last edition. Canada’s Ryan Roussel was a double champion in the men’s sabre and epee category A in 2022.

The USA’s Ellen Geddes is in the top five in the world in the women’s epee category B and the defending Americas champion in that weapon and the foil. Teammate Byron Branch will defend his men’s foil category A title.

Shelby Jensen poses with her teammate
Shelby Jensen (far right) and Ellen Geddes (far left). Credit: Augusto Bizzi

More stories, please!

The pistes of the Brazilian Paralympic Training Centre will be bursting with storylines.

Amelio Castro will fence as a refugee athlete under the World Abilitysport flag in the men’s epee category B, alongside fencers from countries making their Americas Championships debut.

These include a team from Costa Rica and Jamaica’s Alphanso Cunningham.

Cunningham is the London 2012 Paralympic champion from the men’s javelin F52/53 but has now swapped his javelin for a sabre and epee. He was the headline act in Jamaica’s international debut at the World Cup in Nimes, France, in 2023 and will now lead them out at a regional Championships for the first time.

The 2024 Wheelchair Fencing Americas Championships will feature men’s and women’s epee, foil and sabre category A and B individual and team events.

It is the last of the regional Championships to take place this year, following the Euros in Paris, France, and the Asian and Oceanian Championships in Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand.