Wheelchair fencing classification research enters next phase


Scientific researchers who are working on creating an evidence-based and sport specific classification system for wheelchair fencing are nearing the end of two new major pieces of research.

Since 2018 Alexandre Villiere from Middlesex University in London, Great Britain, has being leading an independent project which will inform the future of classification in the sport.

After publishing a Delphi study in 2021 in the Journal of Sports Sciences, which analysed the views of coaches on physical factors that determine overall performance, Villiere and his team have been working on how they can analyse the movements made by fencers.

The first of two studies is looking at how useful it is to use 2D analysis compared to 3D motion capture when looking at lunges and retreats.

If 2D analysis is viable, the research team could film wheelchair fencing bouts and predict trunk angles, allowing them to assess trunk movement abilities across different disability profiles. This part of the research has taken in a huge amount of data and the team are currently carrying out a statistical analysis.

The outcome of this study will inform the successful conclusion to a second piece of research – designing a ‘tagging panel’ which will allow the capture of various movement patterns that occur in the sport.

The tagging panel can then be used to identify the key activities and time-motion characteristics of wheelchair fencing.

“Identifying the time-motion characteristics of a sport is considered to be one of the crucial steps in the classification research, and is recommended and recognised as best practice,” Villiere said. “Such an outcome will assist in the development of standardised, sport specific tests of performance.”

The conclusion of the tagging panel study can be reached once the researchers have established if a reliable means of recording trunk angle can be made with 2D.

The classification research project, which began in 2018 and was followed by the first gathering of data at World Cups in 2019, was mostly put on hold during 2020 and 2021 because of COVID-19.

The research team aims to complete their work and make any recommendations to IWAS Wheelchair Fencing after the next Paralympics in Paris, France, in 2024.

The project was initiated in response to the 2015 International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Classification Code, which requires all International Federations (IFs) to have classification systems which are evidence-based and sport specific. All IFs have to meet the Code as part of the inclusion of their sports on the Paralympic programme.