Wheelchair fencing: It’s time for Tokyo 2020
Sixteen medals are up for grabs in wheelchair fencing at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, with competition starting on 25 August.
After the year-long delay, fencers are eager to prove it was worth the wait.
Live results will be available at the IWAS Wheelchair Fencing website. Live updates will be shared on Twitter and Instagram throughout the competition.
Pictures, which are free for editorial use, will be available here every day.
Day one – 25 August
The Paralympics open with the men’s and women’s individual sabre category A and B – a historic moment for wheelchair fencing. The women’s events have been included for the first time, bringing a full programme of individual medal events for both genders.
The fight for the first women’s gold medals could fall between China’s world champion Jing Bian, Poland’s World No.1 Kinga Drozdz and Ukraine’s Worlds bronze medallist Yevheniia Breus in the category A bouts.
In the category B, Chinese newcomer Shumei Tan stole the show at the 2019 World Championships by securing gold. Georgia’s Irma Khetsuriani, Ukraine’s Olena Fedota and Hungary’s Boglarka Mezo are also not to be discounted as the world top three.
Mezo’s teammate Richard Osvath tops the current men’s sabre category A rankings and in Tokyo will reignite his rivalry with Ukraine’s Andrii Demchuk. The pair are admired for their fine fencing in the sabre and it was Demchuk who took the gold at Rio 2016 by beating Osvath.
In the category B, Russian Paralympic Committee’s Alexander Kurzin ended a decade-long wait for a world title in 2019 and comes into Tokyo 2020 with that in his pocket. Two Polish athletes, father and son-in-law Grzegorz Pluta and Adrian Castro, complete the top-ranked fencers heading into the competition.
Day two – 26 August
Thursday will see fencers go for the podium in the individual epee.
Thailand’s Saysunee Jana, who has medalled at all four of the Paralympic Games since her Paralympic debut in Athens 2004, is worth a watch here in the women’s category B. China’s Tan is also the world champion in this weapon and is going for a golden double.
Chinese world and Paralympic champion Xufeng Zhou, alongside teammate Jing Bian and Hungary’s serial medallist Zsuzsanna Krajnyak, could be contenders for the gold in the category A.
“There is a saying: what works is not to be changed,” Krajnyak, who is striving for her first Paralympic gold, said. “Thanks to the experience of the five Paralympics which I’ve attended, more or less successfully, I know how to prepare for a competition like this.”
Great Britain’s Piers Gilliver won his first world title in the men’s epee category A in 2019 and will be aiming to improve on his silver from Rio 2016. China’s Gang Sun can also not be discounted as the defending champion.
In the men’s category B another British fencer, Dimitri Coutya, is competing off the back of a Worlds gold from two years ago. However Belarusian Andrei Pranevich and Iraq’s Ammar Ali – the finallists from Rio 2016 – are likely to be in the hunt.
Hakan Akkaya will become Turkey’s first wheelchair fencing Paralympian in the men’s foil and epee category A. Akkaya is a IWAS Youth World Games gold medallist in the under 23s foil category A.
Day three – 27 August
The first of the team medals will be awarded on the Friday, with the epeeists once again taking centre stage.
In the women’s, Hong Kong, Hungary and China all have impressive records. China have taken the gold at the last two Paralympics and will hope to progress to a hat-trick of wins. Hungary and Hong Kong both have three podium finishes each.
France have historically lead the charge in the men’s, with the last Paralympic final ending in one of the most dramatic moments of the Games. With the scores tied at 41-41 when the clock ran out, the computer generated coin toss determined that France would be the winners if no point was scored within the minute of added time. With neither France’s Romain Noble or China’s Jianquan Tian landing a decisive blow in the additional minute, the gold was awarded to France. It was their eighth gold medal. With six medals, including two titles of their own, Italy are also not to be overlooked.
Day four – 28 August
The final day of individual events will feature the return of Italy’s Beatrice Vio in the women’s foil category B. At Rio 2016 Vio won gold on her Paralympic debut and went on to win consecutive world titles in 2017 and 2019.
The foil is the favoured weapon of one of the sport’s most decorated fencers – Hong Kong’s Yu Chui Yee. The seven-time Paralympic champion – three from this weapon – collected silver in 2016 in the women’s category A and will compete at her fifth Games.
Chinese Sun and the RPC’s Roman Fedyaev go into the Paralympics as the top ranked athletes in the men’s foil category A.
Fellow Chinese athlete Daoliang Hu, the Rio 2016 silver medallist, is ready to battle it out with Coutya in the men’s foil category B. Coutya finished ahead of Hu at the 2019 Worlds, with the British fencer claiming silver ahead of Hu in third.
Day five – 29 August
Competition will conclude in Tokyo with the men’s and women’s foil team.
Once again France have the strongest record at the Paralympics with nine medals, including four golds. But China have claimed the title at the last three Games, whilst Italy have two golds of their own lighting up the history books.
China return as the defending women’s champions but Hungary, Hong Kong and Italy should also be closely watched.
The Italian women have four Paralympic medals to their names, whilst Hungary and Hong Kong boast impressive performances at the World Championships which add to their podium finishes at past Games.
Japan will be represented by a team of six athletes for the first time since Beijing 2008, having previously sent teams to Sydney 2000 and Athens 2004. Even without waving flags in the crowd, Anri Sakurai, Chisato Abe, Michinobu Fujita, Shintaro Kano, Mieko Matsumoto and Ryuji Onda will be feeling the encouragement of the nation.
“Covid-19 certainly changed our training environment drastically but in these unusual circumstances I have done everything that I could do,” Onda said. “Definitely, I would not have been able to reach this point just by myself. I wish to return my gratitude to these people as much as I can, by my performance in the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. I will fight every inch of bouts, believing in me that I can do anything.”
By Bethany Ashley | For IWAS