Classification research in wheelchair fencing moves forward
Outcomes will allow the sport to create a new system that meets the International Paralympic Committee’s Athlete Classification Code – a key requirement of inclusion on the Paralympic programme.
International classifiers from around the world gathered in Warsaw, Poland, from 13-14 July for a Classifiers’ Conference.
The meeting was held during the International Wheelchair and Amputee Sports Federation (IWAS) Wheelchair Fencing World Cup. It was designed to gather classifiers for the sport to discuss a variety of topics.
Top of the agenda was a research project which will form the basis of a new sport specific classification system for wheelchair fencing.
The research, which began in Warsaw in 2018, is now progressing into the formal testing stages.
It is being led by a team of experts from Middlesex University in London, Great Britain, that includes lead researcher Alexandre Villiere, biomechanists and performance analysts.
The outcomes will allow the sport to create a new system that meets the International Paralympic Committee’s Athlete Classification Code – a key requirement of inclusion on the Paralympic programme.
The experts, academics and classifiers aim to carry out a series of tests on athletes to assess which elements of sports performance, such as strength and coordination, are important in wheelchair fencing.
They have already conducted a Delphi study with coaches that has taken in three rounds of questionnaires to establish their thoughts on the subject. In Warsaw, video recordings of bouts were made to allow Villiere and his team to make further assessments.
The data gathered so far will now be used to inform the physical testing phase which will begin at the final World Cup of the year in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, in November.
Researchers aim to test male and female athletes from category A and B.
Anita Laszlo, IWAS Wheelchair Fencing’s Head of Classification, said: “We had a useful and productive two days in Warsaw, gathering International Classifiers to discuss the current state of classification and what it might look like in the future.
“We are also pleased to progress with the research project to create a scientific system which specifically meets the need of wheelchair fencing as grows around the world. This will go a long way towards securing the sport’s place at the Paralympics and also making a clearer system for everyone.
“I encourage athletes and teams to get involved at competitions and events so we can continue to make sure classification is as robust and consistent as possible.
“Thanks go to my colleagues for making the journey to Warsaw and for their valuable contributions to our debates.”
After Warsaw, the classification research will take in another two World Cups in 2020. If enough athletes have taken part, recommendations will be made on what a future classification system should look like ahead of implementation by late 2024. If more wheelchair fencers are needed for the research the testing will continue into 2021.
Other items on the agenda in Poland were current rules, best practice and procedures, handling classification protests and athlete assessments.